Donald Trump was a television ratings watchdog long before becoming president, but his Tuesday morning attack on CNN proved he could also be prognosticator-in-chief by mocking the network’s struggling ratings hours before new data proved him to be correct.
“Check out the fact that you can’t get a job at ratings challenged @CNN unless you state that you are totally anti-Trump? Little Jeff Zuker, whose job is in jeopardy, is not having much fun lately,” Trump tweeted. “They should clean up and strengthen CNN and get back to honest reporting!”
A few hours later, the Nielsen ratings for the first quarter of 2018 were released and CNN was trampled by rival MSNBC in most measurables. CNN averaged 985,000 primetime viewers compared to 1.9 million for MSNBC. Among the key demo of adults age 25-54, CNN also finished behind MSNBC, averaging 341,000 to MSNBC’s 405,000.
CNN didn’t only struggle during the primetime hours of 8-11 p.m., as it also finished behind MSNBC among total day viewers – averaging only 713,000 compared to 1 million for its progressive rival. CNN managed to pull off a narrow victory over MSNBC in the total day demo, which Jeff Zucker’s network will surely tout as the only thing that matters.
“It’s unclear if President Trump actually has insight in Jeff Zucker’s job security, but despite the spin he gives, his network’s ratings are consistently at a distant third with its regularly-scheduled programming,” Mediaite columnist Joseph Wulfsohn told Fox News. “Whether he stays or goes, the buck has to stop somewhere.”
Trump has an open feud with CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker, whose network was quick to respond to Trump’s tweet, mocking the president for misspelling the longtime TV executive’s last name while noting that the network isn’t interested in personal beliefs of employees.
Zucker actually helped increase Trump’s star power by greenlighting “The Apprentice” when he was an executive at NBC and was widely criticized for airing Trump’s rallies early in the 2016 campaign. Both decisions benefited Zucker in the ratings department, but the embattled executive seemingly implemented an anti-Trump program strategy once the former reality TV star emerged as a serious candidate.
The result has been a president of the United States who often refers to CNN as “fake news,” and a network filled with anchors who don’t exactly hide their disdain for Trump.
CNN dedicated a good chunk of the latter part of the first quarter of 2018 to covering women who Trump allegedly had affairs with prior to taking office. Respected DePauw University professor Jeffrey McCall recently slammed CNN in an op-ed for The Hill Friday headlined, “CNN lost its way in struggle to find an audience.”
“CNN’s warped obsession with reporting about supposed adultery demonstrates a larger problem at the once-proud and groundbreaking channel,” McCall wrote.
Fox News reached out to McCall for his thoughts on Trump’s tweet and he said he feels that POTUS suggesting Zucker’s job is in jeopardy could actually help him keep the gig.
“If a change in leadership were to be made now, it would look like CNN caved to Trump pressure,” McCall said. “CNN continues to have ratings trouble, but that has been going on for a while now and CNN has shown no signs of adapting or redirecting.”
In fact, CNN is set to add the anti-Trump Chris Cuomo to its primetime lineup and will allow former FBI Director James Comey to promote his book for an hour under the veil of a “Town Hall,” moderated by Anderson Cooper.
On Monday, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale called for CNN’s Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta to lose his credentials after he shouted questions as Trump colored with young children at the White House Easter Egg Roll. “He continues to embarrass himself and CNN,” Parscale said.
McCall thinks Trump should lay off Twitter and focus on bigger issues, but he admits the president accomplished what he intended with the early morning tweet because CNN responding raised the temperature of the situation
“It does appear that Trump has gotten in the collective heads of the CNN brass,” McCall said.
In addition to the struggling ratings, CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, will be purchased by AT&T if the federal government allows the proposed deal. In October 2016, AT&T offered to buy Time Warner for $85 billion but the government sued to block the deal. A trial kicked off last month to decide if the merger will be allowed, and the outcome could also impact Zucker’s fate.
There have been conflicting reports regarding whether or not AT&T would keep Zucker atop CNN, but it’s important to remember that Trump correctly prognosticated part of his Tuesaday morning tweet.
It will be interesting to see if he’s also correct about Zucker’s job being in jeopardy.