Tuesday, Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson played a series of audio clips of CNN head Jeff Zucker interacting with convicted former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen about then-GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump on his Tuesday broadcast.
The “Tucker Carlson Tonight” host laid out the clips, which range from Zucker’s reluctance to contact Trump directly to offering advice for Trump and even raising the possibility of a weekly show for Trump.
CARLSON: Disgraced felon lawyer, Michael Cohen has a new book out. It’s an election year quickie that he probably hasn’t even read. It attacks Donald Trump. Someone should ask him, have you read it? What’s Chapter 3 about?
No one will ask him that, of course, the media naturally have swung into formation to promote it. CNN is leading the charge. Tomorrow night, Michael Cohen is on CNN for a much-hyped primetime interview. You can imagine how many tough questions he is going to get on CNN, probably not too many.
For Michael Cohen, CNN is like a second home. He’s got a lot of close friends over there, including, we told you about this last week, the channel’s chief bodybuilding correspondent, Chris Cuomo. We will have much more on the friendship between Cohen and Cuomo later in the week.
But Chris Cuomo is not Cohen’s only ally at CNN. Cohen is also close to CNN President Jeff Zucker, the man who moonlights as a Democratic campaign operative. Cohen and Zucker once had kids at the same private school in New York. Cohen served on the board of the school with Zucker’s ex-wife.
Jeff Zucker and Michael Cohen have long been personal friends, at least to the extent that narcissists have the capacity for personal friendship.
The relationship tells you a lot about how things actually work in media and in politics. Case in point.
On March 10, 2016, that was the day of the final Republican primary debate, Cohen called Jeff Zucker on his cell phone. CNN was hosting the debate that night in Miami, and Cohen, who was working for Donald Trump at the time, wanted to check in about it. Zucker almost immediately started bragging about himself as he has wanted to do.
After a few pro-forma words about their families, Zucker launched into an extended lecture about his own importance. “Here’s the thing,” Zuckerberg announced to Cohen, “You cannot be elected President of the United States without CNN. FOX and MSNBC are irrelevant — irrelevant — in electing a general election candidate.” If you want to run the country, in other words, Jeff Zucker said, you’ve got to sniff my throne.
It’s not that CNN needs the help. He explained, quote, “We’re killing it. We’re doing great. But Donald Trump badly needs CNN quote, “You guys have had great instincts, great guts, great understanding of everything, but you’re missing the boat on how it works going forward.”
Oh, how it works going forward. Okay. Michael Cohen replies, “Why don’t you e-mail Donald Trump and tell him that,” and at that point, for the first time in the conversation, Jeff Zucker pauses. It turns out that Jeff Zucker doesn’t like to write things down. Sneaky people never do. So here’s what he says next.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JEFF ZUCKER, PRESIDENT, CNN: I’m very conscious of not putting too much in e-mail, as you’re a lawyer as you understand. And you know, and as far as I am of the boss, he also has a tendency, like, you know, if I call them or I e-mail him, he then is capable of going out in his next rally and saying that we just talked, and I can’t have that if you know what I’m saying.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
CARLSON: People would know I talked to Trump, and I can’t have that if you know what I’m saying. Yes, we know what you’re saying, Jeff Zucker. You’re saying that secretly when you think no one is watching you, you’re more than happy to play all sides.
You can brag about how powerful you are, the big-time network honcho kingmaker, the man who decides who is President. Like all tiny insecure people, you will mix flattery with your swagger along the way. You’ll refer to Donald Trump as “the boss” even when he is not on the call. You’re happy to do that.
What you don’t want is anyone in your tiny self-righteous, left-wing, rich person world to know that you’re doing it?
What would Don Lemon think if you knew you were talking to orange Satan? Brooke Baldwin might storm off the set. The world would conclude that you’re a dishonest, phony, and for good reasons. You’ve got to keep it all hidden. Sorry. You know what I’m saying.
But Zucker assured Michael Cohen that none of this was personal, quote, “It’s not that I don’t want to talk to Trump every day. I just have got to be careful because — because I’ve got to be careful. I just don’t want him talking about it on the campaign trail, but you know what? I’m going to give him a call right now, and I’m going to wish him luck in the debate tonight.”
And then Zucker added this —
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ZUCKER: I have all these proposals for him. Like, I want to do a weekly, you know, I want to do a weekly show with him and all this stuff. When — is he back in New York tomorrow? Do you know?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
CARLSON: What? A weekly show on CNN? Jeff Zucker, the President of CNN, wanted to give a weekly show to a man he himself has denounced as a racist? Yes, that was the plan.
Trump, of course, never did get the show. Anderson Cooper is still there. But Jeff Zucker did take the time to dispense quite a bit of unsolicited political advice to Michael Cohen. Quote, “I think the other guys are going to gang up on him tremendously tonight,” Zucker said about the debate that night, “And I think he’s going to hold his own as he does every time. He has never lost the debate, and you know what? He’s good at this. He’s going to do great.”
Cohen didn’t seem convinced by this. Cohen is worried about attacks from the other Republicans on the stage, but Zucker reassured him that Trump would prevail. And then Jeff Zucker offered this surprisingly detailed political advice. Listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER PERSONAL ATTORNEY OF DONALD TRUMP: How many times do you think Cruz is going to call him a conman tonight?
ZUCKER: No, Rubio.
COHEN: I mean, Rubio. How many times do you think?
ZUCKER: A lot.
COHEN: I say a hundred.
ZUCKER: You know what you should do? Whoever is around him today should just be calling him a con man all day so that he gets so used to it, so that when he hears it from Rubio, it doesn’t matter.
He thinks that’s his name, you know?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
CARLSON: Hey, conman. Hey, conman. Hey, conman. Says the conman. There it is. That’s how it really works.
Inside tips on how to navigate the CNN debate from the head of CNN. Jeff Zucker, a man who was supposedly a journalist secretly working as a political consultant. The guy who runs the Democratic Party’s most faithful News Network, giving political advice to the Republican frontrunner.
Donald Trump’s chief tormentor, colluding secretly with Donald Trump’s lawyer. It’s all bewildering. But that’s what it’s really like. That’s the real Jeff Zucker.
A man who believes in nothing, a man whose only goal is proximity to power no matter who wields it. No wonder he is friends with Michael Cohen.