The Mirror

Things Get Uglier As Black Congresswoman Enters Diversity Fight Against CNN

Betsy Rothstein Gossip blogger
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The brawl between CNN and a black media group just got nastier.

In a statement released early Saturday morning, Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) said the recent cuts at Time Warner are “troubling.” Specifically, though, it’s layoffs of African Americans in senior and executive roles at CNN, the company’s flagship news organization, that are particularly “concerning” for her.

Her statement comes on the heels of a few weeks of rough relations between CNN and the National Association of Black Journalists. Last week, NABJ condemned the practices toward black employees at CNN. This week, CNN supposedly pulled funding requested by NABJ for a jobs fair. According to Politico, CNN disputes that it has reached any final conclusions on the matter and that funding has not definitively been pulled.

Still, Fudge is incensed by what she sees is a serious lack of diversity at CNN. She called it “an affront” to the African American journalism community and to African Americans.

“In a nation growing increasingly more diverse, it is imperative that the organizations tasked with keeping us informed reflect the same diversity,” Fudge said. “Ethnic sensitivity both on-camera and behind it demonstrates a corporate understanding of the benefits of diversity, and a genuine respect for the audiences’ needs.”

“Any staffing changes that disproportionately cut the number of African Americans at CNN — intentionally or otherwise — are an affront to the African American journalism community and to the African American community as a whole. It is my sincere hope that these reports are not true, and that Time Warner works to ensure that the diversity of its viewers across the country, and the world, is reflected and protected in all areas of its organization.”

Fudge is no stranger to Zucker and the issue of diversity at CNN. Last year, after NABJ held a contentious meeting with Zucker to discuss the future of black staffers in the wake of his decision to let go of anchor Soledad O’Brien and contributor Roland Martin, Fudge met with Zucker in the spring of 2013. This follows a meeting then-CBC Chair Emmanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.)had with then-Turner CEO Phil Kent in late 2012.

Zucker was apparently in a rage that FishbowlDC (full disclosure: that would be me) reported on the meeting with NABJ in Atlanta. So much so, he repeatedly threatened to cancel it. But two black staffers convinced him he’d look worse by canceling. By the way, those two staffers — Tim Goodly, SVP of Human Resources for CNN Worldwide, and Bryan Monroe, an editor with the DC-based site — are no longer with the company.

Sources on Capitol Hill say Zucker asked Fudge for patience when they met in 2013, saying his track record on hiring, retaining and promoting black staffers should be based on longer than a few months at the helm.

Zucker has now been in charge for nearly two years, and Fudge is obviously not satisfied with what he’s accomplished.

Capitol Hill sources also say Zucker is still smarting over the butt kicking Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) gave him during brutal congressional hearings when Comcast was trying to buy NBC Universal. She blasted Zucker, former CEO of NBC Universal, for the lack of blacks in primetime programming and on “Meet The Press.”

Zucker immediately ordered black and Hispanic guests to be booked on the show. And from the following Sunday on, “Meet the Press” had a variety of minority faces on their morning panel while the acquisition was still going through.

With the blessings of Zucker and other NBC brass, even then-host David Gregory tried to poach a high-profile black democrat who is a regular panelist on a competing Sunday morning show. But to no avail.

The Mirror reached out to CNN for comment.