Here’s your quote of the day and you should read it a couple of times so that it’s seared into your memory:
“Just because Jon Stewart makes fun of it doesn’t mean he’s right.”
That’s CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker, at a meeting of the Atlanta Press Club earlier this week. Zucker was smugly brushing off the criticism his network has been on the receiving end of since he took control and turned it into the Poop Cruise channel. According to the man most famous for running NBC into the ground — laying the foundation, or lack thereof, that would take it from first place to an unprecedented fifth place in the national numbers — those mocking CNN on other TV outlets are just jealous, while the torrent of ridicule the network has faced lately on social media is merely to be ignored, particularly those irritating voices on Twitter, a platform he considers a “frenemy.” Jeff Zucker, by the way, is apparently a 16-year-old Mean Girl holding court at Beverly Hills High School.
When he took over CNN, Zucker notoriously said that he was going to broaden the definition of journalism to the point where, one would imagine, he’d be able to put anything on CNN and call it news — employing a twist on the Nixonian logic that if the president does it, it’s not illegal — while also suddenly viewing half of what was on cable as his competition. To that end, after his self-satisfied shot at Jon Stewart, he admitted that he considers The Daily Show one of those new competitors.
Maybe that’s what makes it so entertaining that Jon Stewart gets to rub Zucker’s face in CNN’s breathtaking fuck-up yesterday, the one that saw network stalwart John King report that there had been an arrest in the Boston Marathon bombing and, at the prodding of Wolf Biltzer, that the man under arrest was a “dark-skinned male.” Now make no mistake, there’s nothing at all funny about CNN’s embarrassing mistake, which truly was one for the ages, a moment that should live on literally as a teachable one by being examined closely in every first-year broadcast journalism class at every university across the country for decades to come.
We all know what eventually wound up happening: CNN was wrong. Dead wrong. About everything. And it had to walk it all back live on the air while trying desperately to cover its own ass. A national news network had reported that an arrest had been made in a terrorist attack and that the suspect very likely confirmed the worst fears of a very large segment of the public. The implications for America and for a hell of a lot of Americans couldn’t be overstated. And the whole damn thing was wrong.
And so, last night, pointing out the disastrous impact the report could’ve had for the country and did have for CNN while also, admittedly, enjoying more than a little understandable schadenfreude, Jon Stewart eviscerated CNN on The Daily Show — and took a not-so-subtle shot right at Zucker by running clips of the initial CNN “exclusive” and saying with phony diffidence, “You know, this is why you turn to CNN in a crisis. We make fun of them sometimes… you know, as one of their competitors I guess we just get a little jealous.” It was a personal slap across Zucker’s face that no one in the audience probably got, but if you followed TV closely was a moment to cherish.
There isn’t a person out there with a working pair of eyes and ears and a knowledge of recent events who doesn’t know that Jeff Zucker is a narcissistic ass with a history of failing upward who’s practically destined to destroy what remains of the once-great CNN from the inside out. Yesterday’s on-air disgrace shows that it’s already happening, and Zucker’s arrogant dismissal of those who know what’s coming and who publicly lament it lets you know that what we’re seeing now is only the beginning.
Yeah, Jeff, maybe Jon Stewart’s not right about everything he makes fun of. But he’s right about CNN.
CNN just proved it.