President of CNN Worldwide Jeff Zucker said Donald Trump will not be paid – nor will any other candidate – for appearing in the upcoming GOP debate. Zucker, who has been criticized for CNN’s over-saturated Trump coverage, also defended the network consistently placing Trump stories front and center – something Donald Trump is now bombastically using as leverage to demand that CNN pay him to debate.
Reports Deadline Hollywood on Dec. 3: “CNN will not pay GOP frontrunner Donald Trump $5 million to appear at the cable news network’s December 15 debate, despite the fact Trump claims he’s responsible for 99.9 percent of CNN’s debate ratings, network chief Jeff Zucker said this morning.”
Despite the grumbling threat to be a no-show unless he is paid $5 million – which Trump said he would promptly donate to military veterans – the leading GOP candidate acquiesced and said he will appear in CNN’s debate on December 15 in Las Vegas.
“When you’re leading in the polls, I think it’s too big of a risk to not do the debate,” the front-runner told the Washington Post. “I don’t think I have the kind of leverage I’d like to have in a deal, and I don’t want to take the chance of hurting my campaign. So, I’ll do the debate.”
“Everybody wants to know, ‘Why do you talk about Trump? Why do you only cover Trump?’” Zucker asked, speaking to BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith. “That’s your opinion. I don’t think it’s our role to take a point of view. It’s our role to report what he does. It’s not our role to build up a campaign or take down a campaign. It’s our role to be skeptical.”
Of course, many other networks are Trump-heavy; the real-estate mogul and Celebrity Apprentice star commands ratings, and news outlets are eager to cover him. In September, the CNN GOP face-off drew over 23 million viewers. When Trump found out, he wanted a $10 million share of the revenue – which he said he would donate.
Last week, he lowered his asking price, calling for $5 million. “We do not pay candidates to appear at debates,” said Zucker in response.
Zucker did admit that in his opinion, the “tone” used by questioners at the debates could improve; republican candidiates had complained over the tone of certain questions – as can the fact CNN uses the “breaking” lead-in when the stories really are not.
“I believe that if you’re running for President of the United States, you should have to answer any question,” he said. “But if you’re running for President of the United States, you deserve respect and you should be treated fairly. It’s our job to ask questions that are skeptical but…with the right tone.”
As far as the “breaking news” banner which CNN has used to herald a Trump story, Zucker said: “I do not think that this is a problem that is unique to CNN. I think every news division is guilty of this. And I think at some point it just loses credibility when it actually is breaking news. And I would much rather spend time breaking actual news than pretending something is breaking news. So we have tried to crack down on the overuse.”
Do you think Jeff Zucker and CNN are over the top on the Donald Trump coverage?