Jeff Zucker resigned as president of CNN on Feb. 2 and, following his unceremonious ouster, many were left to wonder what a post-Zucker CNN might look like. While it’s still too early to say anything definitively, there is one indication that CNN could be less focused on covering its competitor Fox News going forward.
Effective coverage of Fox News has always been a conundrum for CNN. During the Donald Trump administration, many opinion hosts on Fox News openly parroted the president’s political rhetoric and conspiracy theories. Some even maintained a close but informal advisory role with Trump.
Zucker saw that as a major story. He condemned Fox News as “state-run television” — a claim not that far off given the cozy relationship Trump had with, say, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and many Fox News executives, like Bill Shine, who eventually worked in the Trump White House. And Zucker’s views of CNN’s competitor permeated throughout the network, which dedicated significant coverage to Fox.
But how does a rival network report the political rhetoric of a competitor without promoting the competitor? If the consistently absurd and asinine comments made by Tucker Carlson are covered regularly on CNN, eventually many viewers are going to tune into Fox News at 8 p.m. to see what he’s saying. In fact, a recent Nielsen/MRI poll showed that more young democrats tune into Tucker Carlson Tonight over any other show.
But according to transcripts, there has been something of an editorial shift since Feb. 2 when Jeff Zucker left CNN’s Hudson Yards offices for the last time as the network’s president.
In January, CNN mentioned “Fox” on-air an average of 100 times per week. But in the first three weeks of February, the average number of “Fox” mentions dwindled by two-thirds down to 34. If one looks at average daily mentions, Fox was uttered roughly 13 times per day from Jan. 1 to Feb. 2, and five times per day, on average, since.