CNN chief Jeff Zucker on Thursday went off on Fox News, bashing the rival network as “conspiracy TV” and indicating that he’d be open to hiring former Fox anchor Shepard Smith.
“I think Shep’s a great journalist,” Zucker said during an on-stage interview with Brian Stelter at CNN’s Citizen Conference in New York. “I understand he’s not able to take any jobs for the foreseeable future. When he’s available, he is somebody who is very talented and I would be very open to talking to him.”
Smith abruptly exited Fox News two weeks ago after months of clashing with some of the network’s overtly right-wing prime-time stars. The daytime news anchor also repeatedly drew outrage from President Donald Trump over his penchant for fact-checking the many unfounded claims of Trump and his Fox News allies.
Zucker suggested that Fox News had become an “untenable” environment for someone like Smith, “who was a truth-teller who set out to hold people in power accountable. That is not something that organization does, that is not something in full force there, not even in half force.”
The CNN chief also didn’t mind pushing back on his own reporter’s defense of parts of the network.
After Stelter, host of CNN’s media-focused Reliable Sources, claimed that while Fox is often driven by right-wing punditry, it does still employ serious journalists, Zucker offered his own media criticism of his media critic.
“You repeat that line a lot and I think it’s one of the mistakes you make in your journalism,” Zucker told the star weekend host. “Are there a handful of great journalists in that org? Sure. Are there are one or two really good anchors at that organization? Sure. But that doesn’t make it a news organization, that doesn’t make it a journalism endeavor.”
“I think you often say there’s a difference between the news side and the opinion side,” Zucker added. “I think that I don’t see it that way, and I know that you report it that way a lot. I think you’re wrong.”
The CNN head, who previously ran NBCUniversal, continued to slam Fox News as being “akin to state-run TV.” He went on: “I think it’s morphed into conspiracy TV… I don't think it’s a journalistic organization.”
Asked about the repeated attacks on him by Fox’s conservative programming, Zucker replied, “I don’t care. I don’t pay attention to it.”