CNN president Jeff Zucker, whose network will host the second 2020 Democrat presidential primary debate this week, once endorsed White House hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) in her successful campaign for California attorney general a decade ago.
In 2009, Zucker, then president of NBC Universal, held a breakfast gathering for Harris, who at the time was San Francisco’s District Attorney, to introduces her to associates during her campaign to be the Golden State’s chief legal officer, McClatchy DC reports.
“Kamala is not just important for the city of San Francisco, the state of California, but for the entire country,” Zucker told those in attendance of the breakfast held at NBC’s Rockefeller Plaza office in August 2009.
Zucker, who claims to have a longstanding rule about abstaining from supporting politicians, reportedly acknowledged to guests that his backing of Harris was the rarest of exceptions.
“This is in fact, the first time I’ve ever done one of these, and that’s because I have a very, very strict policy because of my job. I’ve taken a position that I completely stay out of supporting candidates of any party and try to stay out of politics entirely,” the media executive said.
In a statement to McClatchy, a CNN spokesperson confirmed the breakfast put on by Zucker.
“Jeff hosted a small breakfast in New York for Kamala Harris when she was the District Attorney of San Francisco. He was then CEO of NBC Universal, and was introducing the DA to some of his colleagues in an informal setting,” said Allison Gollust, who serves as CNN’s chief marketing officer and senior vice president of communications. “He has seen her a handful of times in the last 10 years, all in his capacity as a journalist. His relationship with the senator is no different than any other national politician, and he has never endorsed her, or anyone, in any capacity.”
CNN’s Wednesday evening debate will provide Harris a re-match against former vice president Joe Biden, who she clashed with over the 2020 frontrunner’s praise for segregationists. Harris, who has received largely favorable coverage from CNN since launching her big for the White House, could come under fire for President Trump due to Zucker’s past support, said former CNN political analyst Jeffrey Lord.
“I could just see the tweets tumbling out now, I have no doubt about that,” Lord told McClatchy. “If she becomes the nominee he would certainly go after that. Even if she doesn’t become the nominee, he would probably toy with that.”