It’s the rise of Zucker-ites at CNN!
Don Lemon returns to “CNN This Morning” Wednesday after backlash over his sexist on-air comments — and we’re told he’s returning to a network that has been sharply divided since Jeff Zucker stepped down and Chris Licht took over as CEO.
“There are disgruntled pro-Zucker” staffers who are seemingly pro Don, and “pro Licht” supporters, said an insider.
Ex-CNN boss Zucker infamously stepped down for failing to disclose a long-term relationship with chief spokesperson Allison Gollust, once a top aide to ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
But a year later within CNN’s halls are still those loyal to their old leader.
A source said of new boss, Licht, “They don’t like his vision. He’s not Jeff. People trusted Jeff,” while another source added, “Chris Licht has put all his apples in this cart with Don and the morning show. It has to work.” But, “what does a future look like at this network with a show that is past the point of growing pains?”
Lemon has agreed to undergo “formal training” after having a “frank and meaningful conversation” with Licht according to a memo Licht sent to employees on Monday.
But Zucker’s influence still looms large, and a source told Page Six the ousted honcho even wanted to try and buy CNN — but that the new regime would never let a deal like that happen.
Said an insider of Zucker, “He’s made overtures to buy CNN, but they would not allow that to happen.”
The same insider said of the network’s current state: “The uncertainty, the absolute poor choices in the morning, and other issues have given rise to the voices of the Zucker-ites.”
The source added, “Jeff had a specific plan and approach through his tenure… that made sense to people. He knew who fit well in what times slots, and frankly who didn’t.”
“He never would’ve let these three [hosts] together in this Frankenstein morning show,” the source said of pairing Lemon with Poppy Harlow and Kaitlin Collins.