When AT&T moved to purchase CNN’s dad or mum firm, Time Warner, in 2016, Mr. Trump started attacking his outdated pal. He did it in public, on Twitter. He additionally raised Mr. Zucker in a non-public assembly with AT&T’s then-C.E.O., Randall Stephenson, in early 2017, a remark that hasn’t been beforehand reported.
The president’s marketing campaign in opposition to Mr. Zucker was interpreted — moderately — by Mr. Zucker as an try and get him fired as a situation of the merger, in keeping with three individuals who spoke to AT&T and Time Warner executives on the time. However Time Warner stood by him, and Mr. Trump’s Justice Division sued to cease the merger. When Mr. Stephenson lastly took management of the corporate in 2018, he didn’t hearth the CNN president.
Mr. Mahler’s piece famous that CNN had develop into extra targeted on American politics, ”an endless loop of dramatic moments, conflicts and confrontations” — in different phrases, it had develop into Trumpier. He additionally famous Mr. Zucker’s “strange symbiosis” with Mr. Trump. However that summer time, CNN fired Jeffrey Lord, a genial, silver-haired former aide to Ronald Reagan who had been Mr. Trump’s most stalwart defender on the community.
And by the top of that yr, the lure of scores pulled the community in a brand new path: resistance. Mr. Trump’s personal political theater featured common televised confrontations with CNN’s White Home correspondent, Jim Acosta, a unique type of win-win. But when Mr. Trump and Mr. Zucker typically nonetheless appeared to be winking, their audiences aren’t in on the joke, and the lethal severe stakes grew to become clear when a deranged Trump supporter mailed a bomb to CNN’s New York headquarters in October 2018.
Mr. Zucker didn’t reply by means of a spokeswoman after I requested once more, 5 years later, whether or not he now regrets his position in Mr. Trump’s profession.
However this run, too, could also be coming to an finish. Once I spoke to former NBC colleagues of Mr. Zucker about his tenure there, the present they introduced up most frequently wasn’t “The Apprentice”; it was “Fear Factor,” during which contestants had been tossed of their underwear right into a pit stuffed with rats, amongst different grotesque stunts. USA Right this moment described it as maybe “the most vile program ever to air on a major network.”
“Fear Factor” didn’t age effectively. The present lasted six seasons, and a revival was lower brief by public backlash to a stunt during which competing units of similar twins drank donkey semen. The general public obtained bored with it (and that donkey stunt didn’t air).