The CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, the conglomerate that owns CNN, boasted on Thursday of the cable news network’s newfound ability to get Republicans to appear on its airwaves.
“Republicans are back on the air. Republicans weren’t on the air,” David Zaslav said during an appearance at the MoffettNathanson conference. The Warner boss also claimed that he and CNN boss Chris Licht have told Republicans that appearing on CNN could help them at the ballot boxes.
“During the McCarthy hearings, for those four days, we had 75 Republicans on the air, 41 went on us before they went on Fox,” the WBD chief boasted. “And the reason is, as I’ve said, and Chris has too, to a number of them, they are not going to get one more vote on Fox News. They’ve already got that.”
With CNN currently suffering near-historic low ratings, Zaslav reiterated his confidence in Licht while celebrating the recent promotion of anchor Kaitlan Collins to primetime. “CNN should be where people come for the best version of the truth and for journalism, and that is what we are building,” he said. “We announced yesterday our new 9 o’clock. Chris is rebuilding the network. It’s going to take some time.”
At the same time, he claimed sponsors have positively reacted to the network’s more centrist approach. “But advertisers are interested in CNN again,” Zaslav stated. “They don’t want to be part of an advocacy network. We’ve had meeting after meeting and they say, ‘We are with you.’”
Of course, his remarks come as the network is currently facing widespread backlash, both publicly and internally, for giving former President Donald Trump the opportunity to spew lies and disinformation at a disastrous town hall, which was moderated by Collins.
While Licht has defended the decision, he also scolded CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy for his “emotional” reporting on the anger from CNN staffers over the town hall, prompting additional fallout for Licht and the network.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour told Columbia Journalism School graduates that she publicly disagreed with Licht giving Trump a public platform to lie. Describing the event as an “earthquake,” she said that she hoped “that your trust in us might have been shaken but not shattered,” and that CNN “can survive and rebuild that trust.”
She also provided this parting message to the soon-to-be journalists: “Be truthful, but not neutral. ‘Bothsidesism’ is not always objectivity. It does not get you to the truth. Drawing false moral or factual equivalence is neither objective or truthful.”