CNN president Jeff Zucker initially dismissed Donald Trump as a ‘sideshow’ when he first announced his presidential bid in 2015 but is now reportedly trying to kill off the ‘runaway monster’ that he helped create.

Zucker gave Trump his reality TV start by airing The Apprentice back in 2004 when he was at NBC.

In a New York Times column on Sunday, media columnist Ben Smith wrote that Zucker didn’t realize what a ratings success Trump would be when he first announced his bid for president.

He initially dismissed Trump as a ‘sideshow’ but then changed his tune and spent the lead up to the election saturating CNN with Trump coverage.

Despite his efforts, Trump seemingly fell out with Zucker after opting for Fox News instead of CNN as his preferred network when he won the election.

Trump has repeatedly slammed CNN as ‘fake news’ and accused the network of biased coverage over the last four years. 

Jeff Zucker

President Trump

CNN president Jeff Zucker initially dismissed Donald Trump as a ‘sideshow’ when he first announced his presidential bid in 2015 but is now reportedly trying to kill off the ‘runaway monster’ that he helped create.

Some of Zucker’s acquaintances have said in recent weeks that the TV executive didn’t realize he would lose control of his creation.

Smith says those sources believe CNN’s coverage of Trump is Zucker’s attempt to kill his ‘runaway monster’.

Others, however, have argued that the Trump coverage is Zucker’s latest reflexive adaptation in search of ratings’. 

Back in 2015, Zucker told Smith: ‘I have no regrets about the part that I played in (Trump’s) career.’

Following Trump’s subsequent fall out with CNN, Zucker would not comment when asked recently if he had any regrets.  

The claims that Zucker is now seemingly trying to sway coverage to get back at Trump comes just weeks after the TV executive became the latest to be embroiled in the saga involving Trump’s disgraced attorney Michael Cohen. 

Zucker was caught on tape telling Cohen in March 2016 that he could offer Trump a weekly show on CNN. 

The comments align with the suggestions that Zucker was saturating CNN with Trump coverage in the lead up to the last election.  

Zucker gave Trump his reality TV start by airing The Apprentice back in 2004 when he was at NBC. He is pictured with Trump and wife Melania back when Zucker was working at NBC

Zucker gave Trump his reality TV start by airing The Apprentice back in 2004 when he was at NBC. He is pictured with Trump and wife Melania back when Zucker was working at NBC

Zucker gave Trump his reality TV start by airing The Apprentice back in 2004 when he was at NBC

Zucker gave Trump his reality TV start by airing The Apprentice back in 2004 when he was at NBC

The exchange between Zucker and Cohen took place just hours before the GOP primary debate on March 10 that CNN was hosting. 

In the leaked audio, which was obtained by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, Zucker told Cohen that ‘you cannot be elected president of the United States without CNN’.

‘You guys have had great instincts, great guts and great understanding of everything,’ Zucker told Cohen. ‘But you’re missing the boat on how it works going forward.’  

Zucker would later express worry about corresponding with Cohen by email, adding that he couldn’t risk the possible chance that Trump would mention the nature of the conversation at a rally.

‘I’m very conscious of not putting too much in email, as you’re a lawyer, as you understand,’ Zucker said.

‘And, you know, as fond as I am of the boss, he also has a tendency, like, you know, if I call him or I email him, he then is capable of going out at his next rally and saying that we just talked and I can’t have that, if you know what I’m saying.’

‘It’s not that I don’t want to talk to (Trump) every day. I’ve just got to be careful, because, I’ve just got to be careful … I just don’t want him talking about it on the campaign trail … But you know what? I’m going to give him a call right now and I’m going wish him luck in the debate tonight.’ 

The claims that Zucker is now seemingly trying to sway coverage to get back at Trump comes just weeks after the TV executive became the latest to be embroiled in the saga involving Trump's disgraced attorney Michael Cohen. Zucker was caught on tape telling Cohen in March 2016 that he could offer Trump a weekly show on CNN

The claims that Zucker is now seemingly trying to sway coverage to get back at Trump comes just weeks after the TV executive became the latest to be embroiled in the saga involving Trump’s disgraced attorney Michael Cohen. Zucker was caught on tape telling Cohen in March 2016 that he could offer Trump a weekly show on CNN

The conversation then changed to post-election plans with Zucker offering a ‘weekly’ show with Trump.

‘I have all these proposals for him,’ Zucker told Cohen. ‘I want to do a weekly show with him and all this stuff.’

Turning his attention to the debate, Zucker took the opportunity to praise Trump’s handling of Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and others. 

‘I think the other guys are going to gang up on him tremendously … and I think he’s going to hold his own, as he does every time,’ Zucker said. ‘He’s never lost a debate. And you know what? He’s good at this … He’s going to do great.’

Zucker then offered his own advice to Cohen and Trump’s team, telling them to have him ready for the attacks others were gearing to use during the debate.

‘You know what you should do? Whoever’s around him today should just be calling him a conman all day so he’s used to it, so that when he hears it from [Marco] Rubio, it doesn’t matter,’ Zucker said. ‘”Hey conman, hey conman, hey conman.” He thinks that’s his name, you know?’



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