Jeff Zucker: MSNBC is 'the opposition,' Fox News is 'state-run TV'

Fox News is "state-run TV" and MSNBC has become "the opposition" in primetime and in the mornings, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker said in an interview, adding that he thinks CNN is "seeking the truth."

Zucker, speaking in an interview with New Yorker Editor David Remnick for The New Yorker Radio Hour on Friday, added that there are "clear agendas" at play at both of CNN's rival networks.

"So look, there's three cable news networks," Zucker told Remnick. "Certainly in primetime and in the morning, Fox is state-run TV and is extolling the line out of the White House. MSNBC has become the opposition. And I think CNN is seeking the truth."

Zucker made the remark after a pregnant, eight-second pause after being asked by Remnick how he views the political map of cable news. He underscored that MSNBC is unlikely to get out of its left-leaning routine in primetime because stars like Rachel Maddow have begun scoring ratings wins against Fox News, which has long been at the top of the cable ratings heap.

He also called MSNBC's "Morning Joe" a "good program" before adding that he preferred CNN's "New Day" better.

"Well, you set me up, I had to," Zucker quipped. "Listen, 'Morning Joe' does a good job."

Zucker, 51, is a veteran of the competitive world of cable news who became executive producer of "Today" at the tender age of 26 in 1992. He has been known to lob bombs at the competition — last year, he said BuzzFeed was not a "legitimate" news organization weeks before hiring away four of its journalists.

Zucker also told Remnick he regrets CNN's decision, made during the recent 2016 primaries, to give Donald Trump's rallies wall-to-wall coverage.

"...I think, in hindsight, if we could go back, we probably wouldn't do all those," Zucker said. "I think we probably did do too many of them. I do not think that's why he's president of the United States. I do not believe that's why he won the Republican nomination."

Prompted by Remnick, Zucker responded to charges from President Trump of running a "fake news" organization, calling the term "an unfortunate phrase."

"...What he means by 'fake news' is news that he doesn't like," Zucker said. "And there is a difference between news that is not real and news that he doesn't like."

The full interview is here.

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    Benjamin Mullin

    Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism innovation, business practices and ethics.

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