Discovery on damage control after CEO slips up, says CNN ‘leader in news to the left’ ahead of merger

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(Video Credit: CNBC Television)

The CEO of Discovery, David Zaslav, appeared on CNBC Friday in an interview discussing the company taking over CNN and allegedly misstated that the network was the leader in news to the left when he reportedly meant the left side of the company’s portfolio.

But it didn’t sound like that in the interview when he was asked by CNBC host Joe Kernan about taking over CNN.

Zaslav candidly replied to him, “We’re the leader in news to the left.”

Kernen nervously laughed and immediately seized on his comment.

“Definitely to the left,” Kernen quipped before asking Zaslav if that was what he meant. “Did you say to the left?”

Zaslav laughed but did not correct Kernen’s interpretation of the comment.

“Man, you weren’t kidding,” Kernen kidded and laughed again. Then, seemingly realizing what he had said on-air, Kernan walked it back saying, “that was an aside. I probably shouldn’t have said that.”

Mediaite issued a correction after the comment went viral. The Discovery team claims Zaslav’s odd statement was “referring to the left side of the Discovery portfolio, not the left side of the political aisle.”

Zaslav did not correct Kernan on his presumption of what he meant and let him run with it in the interview. However, later he followed up by saying he views sports as being on the right side of the portfolio, which Mediaite said proves that the CEO was not implying leftist politics.

Discovery is merging with WarnerMedia and the deal should be finalized by spring. As Discovery takes over CNN, Zaslav will be tasked with finding a replacement for newly-resigned CNN chief Jeff Zucker. That’s just one of many headaches he will have to deal with at the leftist news outlet, not to mention the network’s horrific ratings and tarnished image after multiple recent scandals.

Zaslav vowed last year to take a “hands-on” role in the operations of CNN and it looks like he will have his hands full.

“I think overall we’d probably be better off if we just had news networks in America,” rather than those with an opinion element Zaslav told Deadline. “But we don’t. Media tends to be a reflection of where the country is. Where the country was when we launched MSNBC was much more fact-based and less divided.”

Zucker had been with CNN since 2013. He abruptly stepped down this week after a so-called “secret” relationship with CNN chief marketing officer Allison Gollust was made public. The affair had been going on for a long time according to reports and he did not disclose it to the company as he was required to do.

The affair was almost certainly not the only thing to bring Zucker down. Former anchor Chris Cuomo is rumored to have had a hand in it and WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, who currently oversees CNN, allegedly didn’t care for Zucker.

CNN anchor Jake Tapper called out Kilar’s handling of Zucker’s resignation in an exchange at a heated meeting according to the Wall Street Journal’s Benjamin Mullen:

During the question-and-answer session, anchor Jake Tapper said that Mr. Cuomo hired a lawyer who seemed eager to leak damaging information about Mr. Zucker unless they gave Mr. Cuomo severance.

“An outside observer might say, ‘Well, it looks like Chris Cuomo succeeded,’” Mr. Tapper said. “He threatened Jeff. Jeff said we don’t negotiate with terrorists. And Chris blew the place up. How do we get past that perception that this is the bad guy winning?”

A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo declined to comment. A spokeswoman for WarnerMedia said that the company doesn’t comment on investigations.

John Malone, who is a top shareholder at CNN’s soon-to-be parent company Discovery, has also made it clear he disagrees with Zucker’s vision for CNN. According to Deadline, he “made it known that corporate procedures had to be followed to the letter in regards to Zucker.”


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