CNN president Jeff Zucker, who helped propel Donald Trump to stardom with “The Apprentice” but became his nemesis after the real estate tycoon entered the White House, resigned Wednesday for failing to disclose a romantic relationship with a colleague.
As head of the 24-hour Cable News Network since 2013, Zucker was one of the most powerful media executives in the United States.
The 56-year-old said his resignation was effective immediately.
In his message to staff, Zucker said that as part of an investigation into a since-fired CNN anchor, Chris Cuomo, he was “asked about a consensual relationship with my closest colleague, someone I have worked with for more than 20 years.”
CNN identified the colleague as executive vice president and chief marketing officer Allison Gollust, who said she would remain at the Atlanta-based network founded in 1980 by media mogul Ted Turner.
“Recently, our relationship changed during Covid,” she said. “I regret that we didn’t disclose it at the right time.
Zucker and Gollust are both divorced, according to The New York Times.
Zucker joined CNN from NBC, where he rose through the ranks to become president and chief executive officer of the NBC Universal Television Group.
The two fell out after Trump became president.
CNN and Zucker personally became favorite targets of Trump’s diatribes against the media.
“Jeff Zucker, a world-class sleazebag who has headed ratings and real-news-challenged CNN for far too long, has been terminated for numerous reasons, but predominantly because CNN has lost its way with viewers and everybody else,” Trump said.
In a statement published by CNN, Jason Kilar, CEO of the broadcaster’s parent company WarnerMedia, said three senior executives would jointly lead CNN on an interim bases.
CNN has announced plans to launch a subscription streaming service called “CNN+” in the coming months and WarnerMedia is currently in merger talks with media conglomerate Discovery Inc.