Jake Tapper said Chris Cuomo ‘blew up’ CNN after Zucker refused contract payout

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CNN’s Jake Tapper reportedly accused his network’s corporate parent of throwing Jeff Zucker under the bus after the ousted news honcho refused to capitulate to Chris Cuomo’s demand for a multimillion-dollar payout.

Hours after Zucker’s resignation Wednesday, Tapper asked WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar at a tense meeting inside CNN’s Washington bureau about the “perception” that Zucker’s refusal to pay Cuomo the remaining $18 million on his contract ultimately led to him losing his job, according to Puck News.

“Jason, if you could address the perception that Chris Cuomo gets fired by CNN, Chris Cuomo hires a high-powered lawyer who has a scorched-earth policy, who then makes it very clear to the world that unless Jeff gives Chris Cuomo his money, they’re going to blow the place up,” Tapper asked Kilar, according to a recording of the meeting obtained by the news site.

“Stuff starts getting leaked to gossip websites about Jeff and Allison … and then weeks later, Jeff comes forward, discloses this and resigns — not willingly,” Tapper continued. “An outside observer might say, ‘Wow, it looks like Chris Cuomo succeeded,’” Tapper told Kilar during a tense staff meeting Wednesday.

CNN lead political anchor Jake Tapper said the network's corporate parent fired president Jeff Zucker after ex-prime time host Chris Cuomo "threatened to blow up" the cable news channel over a financial dispute.
CNN lead political anchor Jake Tapper said the network’s corporate parent fired president Jeff Zucker after ex-primetime host Chris Cuomo “threatened to blow up” the cable news channel over a financial dispute.
Getty Images for SXSW
Zucker resigned on Wednesday after he acknowledged a years-long relationship with Allison Gollust, the network's top marketing executive, without disclosing it to his bosses.
Jeff Zucker resigned on Wednesday after he acknowledged a years-long relationship with Allison Gollust, the network’s top marketing executive, without disclosing it to his bosses.
REUTERS

“He threatened, Jeff said we don’t negotiate with terrorists, and he blew the place up.”

Tapper then asked Kilar: “How do we get past that perception, that this is the bad guy winning?”

Kilar told Tapper in response: “When it comes to perception, all I can offer you, Jake, is: Every minute of every day we’ve got what’s on the screens [of CNN]. I believe that’s what’s going to define us going forward, far more than what’s happened today and what you alluded to.”

CNN star Kaitlan Collins pressed harder after Kilar appeared to dodge Tapper’s question, saying: “I think the issue is that it’s not a perception.”

“What Jake just described is actually what happened here … Cuomo is a man scorned because he was fired for being held accountable … and Jeff is part of the result of this. And it sounds like you didn’t consult any other executives on removing a critical part of the company.”

Her colleague Dana Bash also weighed in, questioning whether Zucker deserved to be fired over his affair.

“For a lot of us, the feeling is that, for Jeff, the punishment didn’t fit the crime … There are so many people who work here and got a second chance, because that’s what Jeff believed in, and … it feels like he didn’t get that chance,” Bash said.

Zucker resigned from his post as CNN president on Wednesday after acknowledging a years-long “consensual relationship” with Allison Gollust, the network’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer.

In announcing his resignation to staff, Zucker admitted that he failed to disclose the relationship with his underling to his superiors. Zucker’s bosses at WarnerMedia became aware of the relationship during an investigation into Cuomo’s tenure at the network.

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 09:  Chris Cuomo attends the 12th Annual CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute at American Museum of Natural History on December 9, 2018 in New York City.  (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for CNN )
In December, Zucker fired Chris Cuomo after it was learned the primetime host counseled his brother, then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on how to fight sexual harassment allegations.
Getty Images for CNN

On Thursday, the scandal grew as The Post exclusively reported that Zucker and Gollust made personal calls to then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2020 in a bid to lure the chief executive to make more flattering appearances on his brother Chris Cuomo’s show, and even coached him on his COVID briefings.

Nevertheless, senior CNN talent at its Washington, DC, bureau expressed fierce loyalty to Zucker during the meeting with Kilar, with some even suggesting that the historically tense relationship between the two men played a role in the CNN president’s ouster.

Cuomo was fired by Zucker late last year after it was learned that he helped his brother fight back against allegations that Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed an aide.

Chris Cuomo of CNN, left, poses for photographers as CNN colleagues Jake Tapper, center, and Wolf Blitzer look on at the CNN Worldwide All-Star Party.
Cuomo hired lawyers to force CNN into giving him $18 million in salary that he was slated to earn on the remainder of his contract.
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Since his dismissal, the former “Cuomo Prime Time” host has hired a high-powered attorney, Bryan Freedman, in an effort to force CNN to pay him $18 million in salary that he was slated to earn on the remainder of his contract.

Zucker refused Cuomo’s demand for the payout because of revelations that he helped his brother cast the network in a negative light.

Cuomo’s lawyers then decided to go over his head and appeal to executives at WarnerMedia’s parent company, AT&T, sources familiar with the matter told The Post.

Jason Kilar
WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar responded to questions from CNN staffers at a tense meeting after Zucker’s resignation.
Getty Images

Cuomo’s lawyers argued AT&T was involved in selective enforcement, according to the sources.

Zucker — who violated company policy by dating a colleague without disclosing it — was able to hold onto his cushy job, but Cuomo had gotten the boot for helping his brother navigate sexual harassment claims.

Given those circumstances, Cuomo’s lawyers argued, AT&T should pay Cuomo the full $18 million he was demanding. 

Jeff Zucker, CNN Worldwide President, speaking during Creating a Better Content and Media conference.
Zucker’s bosses at WarnerMedia became aware of his undisclosed relationship during an investigation into Cuomo’s tenure at the network.
NurPhoto via Getty Images

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