CNN President Jeff Zucker resigned Wednesday for failing to disclose a romantic relationship with a high-ranking colleague who once served as communications director to ex-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Zucker, 56, in a memo sent to staff said that he should have admitted to that relationship with CNN executive Allison Gollust when was asked about it during a recent probe by the network of Chris Cuomo, who at the time was a host of a prime-time show there.
Chris Cuomo was fired in early December after CNN said it had obtained new information about his controversial role in advising his brother Andrew during a sexual harassment scandal, which itself had ultimately led to the governor’s resignation last summer.
“As part of the investigation into Chris Cuomo’s tenure at CNN, I was asked about a consensual relationship with my closest colleague, someone I have worked with for more than 20 years,” Zucker said.
“I acknowledged the relationship evolved in recent years. I was required to disclose it when it began but I didn’t. I was wrong,” said Zucker, who like Gollust is divorced.
“As a result, I am resigning today.”
“I came to CNN on January 28, 2013. Together, we had nine great years. I certainly wish my tenure here had ended differently. But it was an amazing run. And I loved every minute.”
Zucker had previously served as president and CEO of NBC Universal, the parent company of CNBC.
Gollust is keeping her job as executive vice president and chief marketing officer for CNN Worldwide.
She previously was chief of communications at NBC Universal, and in an NBC News story last year was described as “Zucker’s most-trusted lieutenant for decades.”
CNN declined to comment when contacted by CNBC.
But CNN’s own journalists reported that “Zucker’s resignation left staffers inside the network in shock.”
Gollustr was not identified by name in Zucker’s statement.
But in statement read on air by CNN media reporter Brian Stelter, Gollust said, “Jeff and I have been close friends and professional partners for over 20 years.”
“Recently, our relationship changed during Covid. I regret that we didn’t disclose it at the right time. I’m incredibly proud of my time at CNN and look forward to continuing the great work we do everyday,” Gollust said.
Gollust joined CNN as its communications director in February 2013, just weeks after Zucker started there. She had spent only four months as Andrew Cuomo’s communications director before quitting.
Jason Kilar, CEO of CNN’s parent WarnerMedia, in a statement to employees after Zucker’s resignation, said,”We thank Jeff for his contributions over the past 9 years.”
“We will be announcing an interim leadership plan shortly,” Kilar said.
In her recent memoir, the veteran journalist Katie Couric wrote about Gollust and her then-husband moving into an apartment above that of Zucker and his then-wife.
Gollust at one time worked as senior publicist for NBC’s “TODAY,” show, which Couric hosted for years.
“I had to wonder why Jeff was angling so hard to bring Allison on board. She and her husband and kids had moved into the apartment right above Jeff and Caryn’s–everyone who heard about their cozy arrangement thought it was super strange,” Couric wrote.
“By that point, Caryn (Zucker’s ex-wife) had become a close friend and it made me really uncomfortable.”
– Additional reporting by CNBC’s Alex Sherman
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