Saturday 12 March 2022

New report shows how the incestuous ties between CNN and the Cuomos were worse than you thought

 An explosive new report in Rolling Stone details how former CNN chief Jeff Zucker pulled strings at the network to reward his friends and boost ratings by manipulating the news.

Rolling Stone's Tatiana Siegel spoke to more than 36 sources and obtained text messages exchanged between Zucker, his subordinate and romantic partner Allison Gollust, and disgraced ex-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo that show how Cuomo leveraged his relationship with his former staffer, Gollust, for positive coverage at CNN, while Zucker was more than happy to go along with it to make "great TV."

The report shows how CNN executives grossly violated journalistic ethics, including an example of how Gollust, who ran the network's marketing and communications departments, literally cheered for Cuomo after she secured TV appearances for him to attack former President Donald Trump's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Siegel recounts how on March 28, 2020, Trump spoke to reporters about the possibility of imposing a short-term "quarantine" in New York, New Jersey, and some parts of Connecticut to slow the spread of the coronavirus. "This would be an enforceable quarantine. You know, I’d rather not do it, but we may need it,” Trump said at the time, giving reporters an update after he discussed the measures with Cuomo, who was still the governor at this point.

Later that day, Cuomo was asked about the president's comments during his daily press briefing, and he dismissed what Trump said. “From a medical point of view, I don’t know what you’d be accomplishing,” he told reporters.

But Rolling Stone reveals that after this press conference, Cuomo texted Gollust, his former communications director who was now an executive vice-president at CNN, writing, "Ask Jeff to call me plz," apparently referring to CNN President Jeff Zucker.

While Zucker's representatives told Rolling Stone there's "no record" of a conversation between him and the governor that day, Gollust secured a TV hit for Cuomo on CNN that night, discussing Trump's quarantine proposal.

Cuomo told CNN's audience that a quarantine would cause "chaos and mayhem" in the tri-state area, predicting that it would "paralyze the economy."

Though the governor would later become infamous for imposing some of the strictest COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions in the country, in March 2020 on CNN he argued that Trump's quarantine "would shock the economic markets in a way we’ve never seen before.”

After the segment, Rolling Stone reports Gollust texted Cuomo: "Well done ... Cuomo-W. Trump-L."

In another example of how Gollust acted to benefit Cuomo, Rolling Stone reports that she invited the governor to come on CNN's "New Day" to "squash" a rumor that Trump was preparing to shut down New York City because of the pandemic. In a text message, she reportedly told Cuomo, "I’m pretty sure I stopped being your publicist 8 years ago, but apparently I still am." In another exchange, Cuomo reportedly asked Gollust to critique his performance at a press conference.

A spokeswoman for Gollust called these exchanges, "innocuous, mundane conversations that are being spun into a nefarious tale." But the spokeswoman admitted that Gollust once asked Gov. Cuomo to help her friend push through the city bureacracy to open a birthing center in Manhattan. And she also confirmed that another time Gollust asked Cuomo for a favor involving Billy Joel, who'd once hosted a Cuomo campaign fundraiser. Gollust had reportedly texted Cuomo, “I never ask you for favors, but ...,” to which Cuomo replied, “Yes, u do ask me for favors, and that’s okay. It’s mutual.”

All of this and more happened under Zucker's watch and reportedly with his approval. Rolling Stone details how Zucker enjoyed a close relationship with both Gov. Cuomo and his younger brother Chris Cuomo, a personal friend whom Zucker hired as a CNN anchor starting at $6 million salary. (Both Cuomos have lost their previous jobs amid sexual harassment scandals, though each has denied the respective allegations against them.) Zucker violated CNN's conflict-of-interest protocols to have Chris interview his brother, the governor, all in the pursuit of higher ratings because Andrew Cuomo's star was rising as a possible Democratic challenger to President Donald Trump, Rolling Stone's sources say.

On top of that, Zucker was in a decades-long sexual relationship with Gollust at the same time he was advancing her career at CNN. And Gollust in turn was working to promote Cuomo at the network, sending his preferred topics to CNN producers, just like for the March 2020 interview, according to Rolling Stone.

Rolling Stone suggests the text messages obtained by Rolling Stone are likely to be among the 100,000 texts and email exchanges reviewed by CNN's internal probe into Chris Cuomo's ethics violations. The investigation was completed on Feb. 13. WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar said in a statement the probe was "comprehensive and definitive," and said it had "found violations of Company policies, including CNN’s News Standards and Practices, by Jeff Zucker, Allison Gollust, and Chris Cuomo.”

Zucker left CNN on Feb. 2, 2022, citing his inappropriate affair with Gollust but making no mention of the numerous allegations of serial ethics violations that are now coming to light. Gollust was ousted from CNN on Feb. 15, after the internal probe turned up evidence of her unethical behavior.

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