Voices: The truth about Jeff Zucker’s CNN resignation isn’t what conservatives want you to believe

·3 min read

“As part of the investigation into Chris Cuomo’s tenure at CNN, I was asked about a consensual relationship with my closest colleague,” began CNN President Jeff Zucker’s email to staff announcing his resignation. “I was required to disclose it when it began but I didn’t. I was wrong. As a result, I am resigning today.”

Though Zucker does not name her, the colleague in question was soon revealed to be top executive Allison Gollust, and their relationship to have been an open secret in New York City media for years.

The nature of the relationship itself doesn’t appear to be particularly salacious — it had been going on for years, both parties are consenting adults, and there are no glaring power imbalances that smack of predation on either side — but that hasn’t stopped conservative commenters from eagerly framing it as a “sex scandal” or even “sexual deviancy.” The political right is once again dishonestly and cynically coopting the very real issues of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace, especially from powerful men at the top, in order to advance a narrative that ultimately minimizes and devalues those issues.

There is a real scandal here, as Gollust was previously a communications director for Andrew Cuomo, prompting troubling questions about Zucker’s conflict of interest in covering for both Cuomo brothers. But “conflict of interest” is not nearly as exciting as “sexual misconduct,” and so Zucker has been added to the pile of insinuations helping characterize CNN as not just permissive of sexual harassment but as a seething den of sadistic perversion.

“Nothing to be “stunned” about. CNN is the home of sexual deviancy,” tweeted Nicholas Fondacaro. Brigitte Gabriel tweeted, “A network famous for employing creeps was apparently run by one too!” Jenna Ellis put “consensual” and “undisclosed” in scare quotes in her tweet about the story. Lauren Boebert, subtle as ever, tweeted, “It had been a few weeks since someone at CNN resigned over some sexual deviancy, but Jeff Zucker came through today and made sure we didn’t forget what a band of sick perverts that entire news channel is.” Former President Donald Trump called Zucker a “sleazeball” in his official statement.

Even the more measured right-wing comments implied an element of predation, such as those that characterized Gollust, an extremely highly placed executive, as a “subordinate” or “staffer.” Many, including Andy Ngo, Jack Posobiec, Nick Adams, and Carmine Sabia, framed Zucker’s resignation as the latest in a long line of “sex scandals” that includes the Cuomos and Jeffrey Toobin.

The American right wing has never been shy about stealing the language of social justice from the left when it serves their own ends. Anti-abortion advocates call pro-choice advocates enemies of feminism. They’ve spent the better part of the past week decrying President Biden’s pledge to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court as “racist.”

The wildest accusations of sexual misconduct will likely fade into the background as more details about Zucker’s resignation and the relationship emerge; specifically about what Gollust’s role was, if any, in helping the Cuomos cover up the sexual assault allegations. The problem is that even if there was no sexual misconduct, the stain of allegations linger, but I don’t predict the consequences will fall on Zucker’s head. Instead, they will become more fodder for the argument on both right and left that #MeToo hysteria has cost another innocent man his livelihood. In fact, it is an argument already being made by Robby Soave and Michael Tracey.

Somehow, Zucker is both a sacrifice to the altar of cancel culture and a sexually deviant monster, but the only real victims are the public.

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