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The Huffington Post's senior media reporter Michael Calderone reported that "CNN president Jeff Zucker ... defend[ed] his network's heavy focus on Republican front-runner Donald Trump," and that he dismissed criticism of overcoverage of Trump as "too much handwringing."
In March 2016 alone, Trump has received nearly three hours of interviews on CNN, not including coverage of his live events, or the commentary of his campaign surrogates Jeffrey Lord and Kayleigh McEnany, who are employed by CNN and appear frequently to push Trump's talking points and defend his racist statements. Even as journalists have called for the end of the media's practice of allowing Trump to call in to shows, CNN's Wolf Blitzer granted Trump an 11-minute phone interview where he advocated for torture following the Brussels attacks. More recently, when news broke of Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski being charged with battery, CNN interviewed both McEnany and Trump supporter Scottie Nell Hughes, with McEnany calling Lewandowski's charge "a side story." This was soon after Trump complained that CNN's coverage was "one-sided and unfair."
In the March 30 article, Calderone reported that CNN president Jeff Zucker is standing by his network's "heavy focus" on Trump and that Zucker cited the March 29 Republican forum as "the most-watched ever for that format." Calderone noted that Trump "has been a ratings bonanza for cable news networks like CNN" even while they "have faced questions about the excessive amount of airtime given to Trump." Calderone also noted that CNN has faced scrutiny for hiring Jeffrey Lord and Kayleigh McEnany, "whose on-air roles seems to be primarily Trump boosters and defenders," and that Zucker defended Lord's role at CNN:
CNN president Jeff Zucker on Wednesday defended his network's heavy focus on Republican front-runner Donald Trump the day before, particularly its coverage of the arrest of Trump's campaign manager, according to network sources.
Zucker kicked off Wednesday's employee town hall by saying that the previous night's televised Republican forum, which featured Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, was the most-watched ever for that format.
CNN averaged 3.26 million viewers during the three-hour event, with viewership jumping to more than 4 million during the second hour, which focused on Trump. The real estate mogul has been a ratings bonanza for cable news networks like CNN, which is up 165 percent in prime time from a year ago. At the same time, CNN and its network rivals have faced questions about the excessive amount of airtime given to Trump, who has benefited from having his rallies broadcast live and being able to routinely call in to news shows rather than appearing in person.
During Wednesday's town hall, an employee asked why CNN seemed to devote "80 to 90 percent" of its airtime Tuesday to Trump, and to the news of the battery charge against his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. The employee pointed out that there were other significant news stories Tuesday, such as a Supreme Court decision on public-sector unions and President Barack Obama's pledge of new initiatives to fight opioid abuse.
"We actually covered every one of these stories on CNN, but they weren't all necessarily on television," Zucker said, according to sources who were not authorized to discuss the internal meeting.
Speaking at Wednesday's town hall, Zucker said there has been "too much handwringing" over the media's coverage of Trump, according to sources.
CNN has also come under scrutiny for hiring two political commentators, Jeffrey Lord and Kayleigh McEnany, whose on-air roles seem to be primarily as Trump boosters and defenders.
On Wednesday, Zucker said he's "really comfortable" with Lord's role at the network. The network chief touted CNN's "tremendously diverse roster of analysts," including Lord, as being a big part of the network's success this election cycle.