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Tipsheet

CNN's Don Lemon Says Jeff Zucker Made Network 'Relevant Again'

Photo by Jason Mendez/Invision/AP

CNN anchor Don Lemon gave an emotional testimony on former network president Jeff Zucker during the latest broadcast of his nighttime program, claiming that his ex-boss made the liberal news outlet "relevant again."

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Lemon said Friday on "Don Lemon Tonight" that it has been a "tough few days" for CNN employees and that they are all "heartbroken because we lost our leader."

"We lost a man who was the backbone, the glue and the spirit of this company, the man who I personally credit with change in my life, the man who believed in me when nobody else did," Lemon said. "He is the reason that you have a gay black man with two hours of primetime, a show with my name on it, the only anchor of color in primetime on cable news, think about that. You want to talk about diversity? Here it is."

He said that it has been "hard to come into work this week" for the more than 3,000 CNN employees.

"I've been at this network for almost 16 years," Lemon explained. "We have been through ups and downs ratings, rating highs, rating lows, everything, regime changes, we've been through a lot. And through it all our mission has remained the same to deliver the facts to deliver the news. It is what we did when Ted Turner turn the lights on here. It is what we did through two Gulf Wars, through 911, through Katrina, through an insurrection."

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Lemon then attributed Zucker for making CNN "relevant again" and alleged that he left the network a "very good blueprint going forward."

"So for all of you at home watching, you should know that I and my colleagues will continue to do exactly what he would want us to do," Lemon said. "And that is to do what I'm going to do right now: deliver the news, no matter what it is, without fear or favor. So, thank you, Jeff Zucker, for everything you did for everyone at this network and for what you did to the entire country -- for the entire country."

This comes after Zucker released a statement Wednesday announcing his resignation from CNN over his failure to disclose his relationship with colleague Allison Gollust, an executive vice president and chief marketing officer, during the investigation into disgraced former network anchor Chris Cuomo.

Cuomo was fired in December following revelations about his involvement in aiding his brother, disgraced former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), against a slew of sexual harassment allegations. During the investigation, Chris Cuomo was also accused of sexual misconduct against a former colleague from his time at ABC News.

Gollust, who will continue her employment with CNN, said in her own statement that she and Zucker have been "close friends and professional partners for over 20 years" but that recently, their relationship "changed during COVID."

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"I regret that we didn't disclose it at the right time," she said.

The relationship has been called an "open secret" by media personalities and former CNN employees. 

Since Zucker's resignation, revelations about his relationship with Gollust have been reported, including how the relationship dates back to 1996, when she was a "trainee" and he was executive producer of NBC's "Today" show.

The couple also gave "talking points" to Gov. Cuomo, Gollust's former boss, to respond to attacks from then-President Donald Trump during daily coronavirus briefings in the early months of the pandemic. 

Zucker and Gollust were reportedly "instrumental" in Gov. Cuomo's appearance on his brother's show, "Cuomo Primetime," in 2020, and Gollust personally asked the governor to continue his CNN appearances after his office started to oppose scheduling more interviews with the Cuomo brothers. 

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