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DALLAS—Former President Donald Trump feels CNN has “gotten worse” under new ownership.
“CNN doesn’t have any credibility and that’s so sad to see,” Trump said when Fox News Digital asked what the network can do to restore credibility in the eyes of conservatives backstage before the former president delivered the CPAC Texas keynote speech.
“It used to be a very important network. It used to be a very important platform, I think they’ve actually gotten worse,” Trump continued. “I think it’s a whole big con job that they’re going to try to reach out and they’re going to try to get better. I think they’ve gotten worse.”
Trump’s longtime nemesis Jeff Zucker, who was largely responsible for the network’s shift from a just-the-facts news operation to liberal opinion programming, was forced to step down earlier in 2022 ahead of the long-planned merger that put CNN under the control of Warner Bros. Discovery.
Zucker’s successor, recently named CNN CEO Chris Licht, put an emphasis on restoring the network’s reputation of a non-partisan “news” outlet. Licht has also reportedly been meeting with high-profile Republican lawmakers in an attempt to repair relationships that soured during the Zucker era — but Trump hasn’t noticed “any sign” of change.
“Not a lot of people are watching. They lost tremendous credibility and they lost a lot of money in terms of brand value,” Trump said. “But I have not seen any sign that they’ve changed.”
Licht, who took over the network last spring, hasn’t made significant changed to the network’s programming. He’s toned down the network’s use of the “Breaking News” on-screen graphic that became commonplace during the previous regime and announced the long-struggling morning show “New Day” would be “reimagined” later this year, but most of the Zucker-era talent remains in place.
“Chris is the midst of an entire org evaluation, which includes a review of talent and executives — not just two anchors. He’s determined to tamp down spectacle and has discouraged the presentation of content in an alarmist fashion,” a CNN insider told Fox News Digital earlier in 2022.
The “two anchors” comment was a reference to an Axios report in June that suggested Brian Stelter and Jim Acosta were seen as the “face of the network’s liberal shift” in the eyes of conservatives.
Zucker was an NBC executive and launched “The Apprentice,” but the duo didn’t see eye-to-eye when Trump entered politics. By the time Trump announced his candidacy for the 2016 presidential election, Zucker was in charge of CNN.
The network was initially mocked for airing empty podiums as Trump was set to speak, as critics believed they were building up the former reality TV star to help ratings. However, once Trump emerged as a viable candidate, the network turned on him and essentially implemented an anti-Trump programming strategy.
Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn and Haris Alic contributed to this report.