CNN's Zucker blames Trump for threats to journalists

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NEW YORK — CNN chief Jeff Zucker says the level of threats faced by his journalists is more serious than people realize and he lays the blame squarely at the feet of President Donald Trump and other politicians he says try to delegitimize the press.

Zucker called it "unconscionable and dangerous and they should know better."

CNN has frequently been the target of Trump's complaints about "fake news." Anti-CNN chants were heard from the audience at some of Trump's campaign rallies last year. It didn't involve CNN, but recently elected Montana congressman Greg Gianforte pleaded guilty to body-slamming a newspaper reporter who had asked him a question the night before his special election victory.

"This is what happens when you try to delegitimize an institution that is trying to do its job," Zucker said on Thursday. "It is shameful on the part of the administration and other politicians to cause a frenzy against something that is guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States. It does a disservice to this country and its position in the world and allows a heightened sense of rhetoric against journalists and media organizations."

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide, said he was reluctant to talk publicly about the concerns but that "we've been dealing with this in a very real and heightened way over the last 18 months."

CNN and Trump have had a complicated relationship; the network was criticized in the early stages of last year's campaign for giving Trump too much airtime, and the network still gets heat for some of the pro-Trump commentators it employs, like Jeffrey Lord. Zucker has consistently defended the importance of having people on the air who reflect Trump's point of view.

Zucker and Trump have a personal history, too. He was head of NBC Universal when Trump became one of NBC's biggest stars on "The Apprentice." Zucker said he hasn't spoken with Trump since he became president.


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