The television news business is a very small place -- some might call it incestuous. Most of the people who do this weird job for a living know each other. Many have worked together over the years. There aren't that many employers. So it's not surprising that a number of people on Fox News, including me, once worked across the dial at CNN.
And as any of us can and will be happy to tell you, CNN has always been a liberal place. It was founded by Ted Turner who is an aggressive left-winger. But CNN was not always nakedly partisan. They used to be a news network. It didn't always function as it does now as a political campaign. That's a new development.
What changed? Well, the head of the company changed. The president of CNN now is Jeff Zucker. He is responsible for the change. Here's how I once described him on this program:
"From his shadowy lair, hidden high above the newsroom, CNN's secretive Dwarf King slithered to the intercom and summoned his minions. From across the cable empire, they gathered at his beckoning, each with talking points ready."
So if this sounds like something out of "Harry Potter," that's because, in some ways, it is. You won't see gargoyles at CNN headquarters, but you can feel the political ambitions of the man who runs every detail of that place.
Since Zucker took over CNN almost seven years ago, it often feels like every segment on that channel is choreographed for maximum political effect. If you have ever seen it, you know exactly what we're saying.
And it turns out, there's a reason it feels that way...
On Monday, the group Project Veritas released a series of audio and video recordings it says were made by someone within CNN. As of Monday night, we have not independently verified the tape. We did call over to CNN and asked them, but they did not respond. But we have no reason to believe any of this is fake.
The recordings indicate Zucker is dictating every detail of CNN's programming and doing so with clearly partisan objectives in mind. Here's one example. This is Zucker telling his minions how to shape the coverage of Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina:
Jeff Zucker, president of CNN: So I just want to say on the Lindsey Graham front, I know that there's a lot of people at CNN that are friendly with Lindsey Graham. Time to knock that off, and it's time to call him out. And, you know, I think he's under full-time contract now with Fox News. He's done his last 26 interviews in cable news with Fox, OK? And, so, it's time to seriously call out what's going on here.
Oh, got that? That's the standard. That's the news standard at the "news" network -- the Cable "News" Network. Lindsey Graham has appeared on Fox, so attack him.
Because projection is the signature hallmark of the left, Jeff Zucker accuses other people of trafficking in fake news. Hilarious!
And so CNN did just that, all while pretending the coverage was legitimate.
Here's Zucker telling his employees that no matter what else is going on in the world, the impeachment of Donald Trump -- which, in effect is a symbolic act, since nobody believes he is going to be convicted -- is nevertheless the only story that really matters:
Zucker: We're moving towards impeachment. I mean, don't like, you know -- We shouldn't pretend, oh, this is going one way. And so, all these moves are moves towards impeachment. So, don't lose sight of what the biggest story is.
For a newsman, there's a distinct lack of clarity in those instructions, but the essence was clear enough. "Don't lose sight of what the biggest story is," and that's an order.
Well, the message apparently has been received by the people who work for Jeff Zucker. Listen as a CNN staffer explains that he and the rest of them know exactly what Jeff Zucker wants:
Christian Sierra, CNN media coordinator: Impeachment stuff ... there's new developments every day, more shoes drop and it's like ...There's just nothing we can do if Zucker wants impeachment every single day to be the top story. And so yes. He wants impeachment, so ...
Journalist: So, above all else ... I am assuming.
Sierra: Above all else.
"There's just nothing we can do if Jeff Zucker wants impeachment every single day." -- "Impeachment above all," and so that's exactly what they deliver day after day, despite the fact that there's not really anything new to report.
And yet, because projection is the signature hallmark of the left, Jeff Zucker accuses other people of trafficking in fake news. Hilarious!
Zucker: I think what's going on in America now is really fundamentally the result of years of fake news conspiracy nonsense from Fox News that has taken root in this country and I'm dead serious about this.
"I'm dead serious about this," harrumphs one of the least serious people, least impressive people, least articulate people in public life.
Even his own employees can't take that seriously. Listen to one of them:
Nick Neville, CNN media coordinator: Like, there's a lot of people who were out of here trying to like just do what they think like is the best of journalistic integrity. And then you get on the 9:00 a.m. call and big boss, Jeff Zucker, [bleep] tells you what to do. And it's like you have to like ... to a certain extent, you have to follow his verdict.
Oh, so we're laughing because how can you not laugh? It's just - - it's out there. It's like there's nothing hidden at this point. But it's also poignant.
Here, you have a kid who works there, who thinks it is journalism, and he looks around and he sees people -- because there are good people at CNN. We know it. Anyone who has worked there knows there are good people who work there.
And there are a bunch of them who are trying to commit journalism. But the big boss Jeff Zucker won't allow it. Integrity be damned. Just do what Jeff Zucker says, whether it's true or not.
Well, that's not journalism, of course; it's the definition of state media. Relentless cheerleading; relentless, never-ending shilling for the ruling class.
America doesn't love it. They don't watch it. But everyone in Washington loves Jeff Zucker.
And that's not surprising.
Adapted from Tucker Carlson's monologue from "Tucker Carlson Tonight" on Oct. 14, 2019.