Notes on the Zucker Scandal

Jeff Zucker and Andrew Cuomo
Photo by Brad Barket/Getty
Dylan Byers
February 2, 2022

Things change fast in the media business. As of this morning, I was amassing lines of reporting about the latest upheaval at MSNBC, where Rachel Maddow is going on sabbatical and Joe Scarborough and Mika Brezisnki are actively expanding their horizons with a whole other hour of Morning Joe at 9 a.m. The leitmotif of the storyline was that MSNBC’s executive leadership was imperiled, running out of moves for how to consistently articulate an editorial strategy, and fumbling along while Jeff Zucker, the prodigious programmer, was re-centering his network and building out CNN+.

Then came the news of Zucker’s stunning resignation, itself an epochal event in the media business that scrambled everything. The repercussions from Zucker’s departure will last years and impact networks, streamers, shareholders, former colleagues, friends, gossipmongers, and more. This story is unfolding in very real time, and tonight, I wanted to outline the most immediate contours and consequences, as they are shaping up: how things are playing out internally, what happens next, and the most immediate reverberations.

Zucker’s forced resignation was most upending for the shocked and distraught CNN employees, many of whom had for years demonstrated a near filial loyalty to their network leader. It was also a complexifier for David Zaslav and the Warner Bros. Discovery executive team, who will now inherit a rudderless and scandal-plagued cable news network in his absence. And, of course, it was felt most significantly by Zucker and his top aide, Allison Gollust, who were both poised for elevated roles in Zaslav’s media empire and have instead seen their fortunes reversed after failing to disclose a romantic relationship.