Project Veritas’ leaked audio show CNN’s Zucker urged staff not to ‘normalize’ Trump’s behavior
Project Veritas’ James O’Keefe has gone on the hunt for CNN executives. Leaked audiotapes of top executives at CNN showcase the coordinated hostility the network has had toward President Trump in the weeks leading up to the election as well as after. On Tuesday evening, O’Keefe discussed the audio with Fox News host Sean Hannity.
Tuesday morning, O’Keefe revealed that Project Vertias had secretly recorded the network’s conference calls over the span of two months. Many of the recordings involve CNN President Jeff Zucker.
A number of clips have been released. In one, Zucker was heard railing against President Trump. During a conference call on Oct. 9, he urged his staff to not “normalize” the president’s “erratic” behavior as he was recovering from the coronavirus, suggesting the president’s medical treatment was affecting his actions.
“OK, I just want to re-emphasize that, you know, I think we cannot normalize what has happened here in the last week with Trump and his behavior,” Zucker is heard saying. “And I go back to what [CNN political Director] David, David Chalian said, that this is a president who knows he’s losing, who knows he’s in trouble, is sick, maybe is on the after-effects of steroids or not. I don’t know, but he is acting erratically and desperately, and we need to, we need to not normalize that. … He is all over the place and acting erratically. And I think we need to lean into that.”
One week later, on another conference call, Zucker refers to the Hunter Biden email scandal that the New York Post broke just two days previously as well as the unmasking controversy involving top Obama administration officials, including presumptive President-elect Biden, requesting the identity of former Trump national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn during the transition. Zucker suggested that the network shouldn’t cover either of those reports.
“The Trump media, you know, moves immediately from — OK, well, never mind — the unmasking was, you know, found to be completely nonsensical to the latest alleged scandal and expects everybody to just follow suit,” Zucker told his staff. “So, I don’t think that we should be repeating unsubstantiated smears just because the rightwing media suggests that we should.”
Jake Tapper, an anchor for CNN, would later go on to say on Oct. 22 that the allegations against Biden’s son were “too disgusting” to repeat on air and that the “rightwing is going crazy.”
On Nov. 19, Zucker conferred with CNN field producer Stephanie Becker, who brought up the 9/11 Commission Report as something that should be part of the network’s coverage of the delayed Trump-Biden transition.
“On the issue of why it’s important to get the transition going right, the 9/11 report talks about one of the problems was that the trouble that was brewing that [got] lost during the transition,” Becker explained. “So, if you want a good, concrete example of what happens when you don’t have a good transition, well, look at the Twin Towers.”
“Yeah, so I think that’s an important point,” Zucker responded. “I think it was just a little bit yesterday in terms of national security. I think it’s really important to raise again. … I would encourage folks to think about that 9/11 Commission Report and the lack of transition.”
On Nov. 17, Zucker defended the network’s politically biased on-air graphics, stating, “If we’ve made any mistake, it’s been that our banners have been too polite.”
He also told his staff that they “need to go well after Lindsey Graham,” which is likely in reference to alleged communications Graham had with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who claimed Graham urged him to throw out certain ballots to help President Trump. Graham has strongly denied the allegation.
“There is a lot of news out there, and Lindsey Graham really deserves it,” Zucker proclaimed.
On Tuesday evening, CNN Communications responded to O’Keefe’s viral video showing him interrupting a conference call that took place earlier that morning, informing him that “Legal experts say this may be a felony. We‘ve referred it to law enforcement.”
On Sean Hannity’s show, O’Keefe appeared nonplussed by the threat from CNN, saying: “We have legal experts at Project Veritas and we think that Jeff Zucker is just mad and embarrassed here for what we have exposed.”
Hannity asked O’Keefe, “They peddled this Russia lie for three years over there. They never apologized, they never corrected the record, and they reported fake phony news and advanced conspiracy theories. … Is this a news organization to you?”
“No, Sean. This is something that doesn’t shock people but confirms a lot of suspicions,” O’Keefe replied. “To see the president of a media conglomerate barking orders at his reporters and journalists, telling them what to cover, what not to cover. That’s not anything resembling journalism I know.”
“I run an organization with a few dozen reporters. They come to me with facts. They’re not yessing me. In fact, they’re challenging me. And what Jeff Zucker is doing on these phone calls is telling people what the story is, telling them what not to cover. This is propaganda! … We’ve never actually seen it — fly on the wall, you can actually hear the president of the company instruct his vice president, instruct his reporters what the narrative ought to be. This is the farthest thing from journalism that I know. And I think that CNN owes an apology to the people. I mean, this is disgraceful,” O’Keefe stated to Hannity.
O’Keefe compared future releases of other recordings to an “advent calendar” and that Project Veritas will be releasing more tapes “every day” in the coming weeks. He gave credit to a “brave whistleblower insider” who approached his organization and helped coordinate the conference call recordings.