CNN president Jeff Zucker "stunned" colleagues on Wednesday by announcing his sudden resignation, writing in a memo that he had failed to disclose a romantic relationship with another senior executive at CNN.
Zucker ends a nine-year tenure as the network's president and chairman of WarnerMedia's news and sports division.
In the memo, Zucker said that his relationship came up during the investigation into disgraced ex-CNN anchor Chris Cuomo's actions to squash the sexual harassment allegations leveled at his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
"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. I acknowledged the relationship evolved in recent years. I was required to disclose it when it began but I didn't," Zucker said. "I was wrong."
"As a result, I am resigning today," he wrote.
According to the New York Times, Zucker was referring to Allison Gollust, CNN's executive vice president and chief marketing officer. Gollust acknowledged the relationship in a statement on Wednesday and said she would be remaining at CNN.
“Jeff and I have been close friends and professional partners for over 20 years,” she said. “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.”
Zucker and Gollust are both divorced.
CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter said the scandal-ridden organization was "stunned" by this development.
Zucker exits CNN amid a dispute with Cuomo, who was fired in December for grossly violating journalistic ethics by helping his brother, the governor, fight sexual harassment allegations throughout 2021. Cuomo has hired Hollywood litigator Bryan Freedman and is suing CNN for $18 million, alleging the company wrongly denied him severance pay.
Cuomo and Zucker reportedly had a close relationship at CNN, and Zucker sought to protect the embattled anchor after it came to light that he was advising his brother. But after the New York attorney general's office revealed that Cuomo had sought to learn about articles being written at other news outlets about his brother, Zucker ended his support and fired the anchor.
There were also allegations of sexual misconduct leveled against Cuomo by a former junior colleague at CNN days before he was fired. Cuomo has denied the allegation.
After firing Cuomo, Zucker claimed that the news about the depth of his involvement with the governor's scandal response came as a surprise. But Cuomo has accused Zucker of having full knowledge of what he was doing, "including about the details of Mr. Cuomo's support for his brother."
CNN said in December that Cuomo's claims were "patently false."
Complicating the matter of Zucker's exit from CNN is that his girlfriend, Gollust, served as Gov. Cuomo's communications director before becoming executive vice president at CNN. This fact creates all sorts of possible conflicts of interest leading up to Cuomo's eventual termination and now Zucker's resignation.
Meanwhile, CNN ratings continue to plummet, because beyond problems with the network's leadership, its news coverage makes bad TV.