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CNN President Jeff Zucker on Sunday lashed out at Congressional leaders, calling them “gutless” in their response to President Donald Trump’s recent attacks on the news media.
“I do think that one of the things that has surprised me is how gutless many Congressional leaders have been in standing up to these attacks on the media,” Zucker said during a conversation with CNN reporter Wolf Blitzer at the Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center in New York City.
Zucker’s comments came after Trump repeatedly accused the mainstream media of peddling “fake news,” calling it “the enemy of the American People.”
Zucker singled out Sen. John McCain as an exception among his peers, praising his comments on Meet the Press earlier this month, in which McCain criticized Trump’s attacks-noting “that’s how dictators get started”-and called the media “vital” in preserving democracy and individual liberties.
“McCain had the guts to say it, and he deserves to be commended for doing so,” Zucker said. “But frankly very few of his colleagues have stepped up and spoken publicly about it, and that is gutless.”
Trump’s media vitriol has, on more than one occasion, been directed at CNN specifically. At a press conference in January, Trump refused to answer CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s question, calling CNN “terrible” and “fake news.”
Zucker accused Trump of attempting to “delegitimize the media” in order to play to his political base and protect himself against critical reporting, calling it “calculated” and “very dangerous.”
Ironically, Zucker, the former CEO of NBC, is sometimes credited with Trump’s rise to prominence, as Zucker helped make Trump a reality-show star with NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice.” CNN, under Zucker, has also been accused of giving Trump copious coverage during the presidential campaign, capitalizing on his celebrity to boost its own viewership.