Last week, the cable news industry was stunned when then-CNN chief Jeff Zucker announced he was stepping down after nine years at the helm.

The reason? According to Zucker, it was due to an “inappropriate” sexual relationship with a fellow network executive; he said he failed to disclose it when asked by network investigators who were probing former top “Primetime” host Chris Cuomo — who, you may recall, was himself fired for failing to reveal his full involvement in helping brother and then-New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo fend off a series of sexual harassment allegations.

“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,” Zucker said earlier this week in his announcement to staff.

“I acknowledged the relationship evolved in recent years. I was required to disclose it when it began but I didn’t. I was wrong.

“As a result, I am resigning today,” the now former CNN president said.

But as independent journalist Megyn Kelly suggested a day later, there could be more to this firing than meets the eye, and none other than CNN host Jim Acosta may have provided a clue.

According to the Daily Mail, some of the network’s top talent exploded in anger over Zucker’s resignation over what has been described as an “open secret relationship.” Zucker and his companion, Allison Gollust, the Executive VP and Chief Marketing Officer, CNN Worldwide, who is also leaving the network.

Leaked audio of an explosive meeting with WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar (WarnerMedia owns CNN) included Jake Tapper calling Chris Cuomo “a terrorist” (he is reportedly planning arbitration action against his former network). Also, Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins agreed, saying, “I think the issue is that it’s not a perception. What Jake just described is actually what happened here. Chris Cuomo is a man scorned because he was fired for being held accountable for his actions, and Jeff is part of the result of this.”

The perhaps the more interesting take is that of Acosta, who complained: “If we had not had Jeff Zucker here during the Trump administration, we probably would have been taken out,” he said. “You would have something like ‘Fox News Light’ on CNN right now, no offense.”

AT&T owns WarnerMedia, which owns CNN; there is a $43 billion deal with Discovery, which seeks to buy out WarnerMedia. One of the Discovery Channel’s principal shareholders is billionaire John Malone, a major donor to then-President Donald Trump’s inauguration and who has complained in the past about CNN’s content — being more op-ed and far-left rather than an actual news network, which may also be reflected in the network’s cratering ratings and tanking viewership.

In November, GOP political strategist Chuck Callesto wrote in a now-deleted tweet: “BREAKING REPORT: CNN returning to a 100% news channel after Major Merger. A ‘good number’ of the ‘talent/staff’ WILL BE LET GO to align with their new mission,” citing the Washington Examiner’s former news editor Jon Nicosia as the source.

Two weeks later, Malone told CNBC: “I would like to see CNN evolve back to the kind of journalism that it started with, and actually have journalists, which would be unique and refreshing,” adding later that he believes “the coward’s way out would be to sell” CNN, “or spin it off and then sell it.”

“I do believe good journalism could have a role in this future portfolio that Discovery-TimeWarner’s going to represent,” he added.

Meanwhile, speculation continues to grow over whether Zucker was forced out at CNN over his open-secret affair not because bosses had any real issue with it, but because the scandal of it and his ongoing war with Cuomo could have threatened AT&T’s $43billion deal with Discovery.

AT&T bought WarnerMedia (formerly Time Warner) in 2018 for $84billion. It was a disastrous deal that the telecoms giant has been trying to unwind for years. It, finally, is now in the finalizing stage of a $43billion sale of WarnerMedia to Discovery.

According to Puck media reporter Dylan Byers, Zucker and Gollust were due to take on senior roles within the new company, under the leadership of Discovery CEO David Zaslav.

There appears to be a lot more to this story than meets the eye, and we’ll continue to follow where it leads.

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