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CNN’s Zucker calls Facebook’s political ad policy ludicrous

Oct. 24, 2019 Updated Thu., Oct. 24, 2019 at 5:34 p.m.

CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker’s network recently rejected two ads that President Donald Trump’s campaign sought to air over false content. (Associated Press)
CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker’s network recently rejected two ads that President Donald Trump’s campaign sought to air over false content. (Associated Press)
By David Bauder Associated Press

NEW YORK – CNN chief Jeff Zucker says Facebook’s policy not to monitor political ads for truth-telling is ludicrous and advised the social media giant to sit out the 2020 election until it can figure out something better.

Zucker, in an appearance Thursday at a conference sponsored by his own network, also derided rival Fox News as “conspiracy TV” and expressed interest in hiring its former news anchor, Shepard Smith, who left earlier this month.

CNN recently rejected two ads that President Donald Trump’s campaign sought to air, saying they repeated allegations against former Vice President Joe Biden that had been proven false.

Facebook ran the ad, however. The company has said that politicians have the right to free speech on its platform and that it’s up to citizens to investigate claims.

Zucker called the policy “absolutely ludicrous” and that Facebook should be called out on it. Many Democrats have also criticized the social media giant, which was a potent force in the last presidential election and a target of Russians who tried to influence the outcome through fake accounts.

“Given what happened in 2016, maybe they should just sit it out and not take any political ads until they figure it out,” he said.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said repeatedly that he wants people to “see for themselves what politicians are saying” and that he doesn’t think private companies should “censor” politicians. Facebook has a program with third-party fact-checkers including the Associated Press, but the company has said political ads are exempt from its fact-checking operation.

Zucker noted how his own company has beefed up its fact-checking operation since Trump’s election and is trying to quickly correct false claims made on its air. Earlier this week, when the president derided a prohibition on taking money from foreign governments as phony, the newspaper showed the constitutional wording on a split screen while he talked.

Zucker had some of his harshest public comments ever about Fox, saying “I don’t think it’s a journalistic operation.” He scolded CNN’s media reporter, Brian Stelter, who was interviewing him at the conference, for saying that Fox had a news side and an opinion side.

The CNN chief said Fox does a disservice to the country by peddling conspiracy theories, but “that’s the path that the Murdochs have chosen to go down.”

Fox, owned by Rupert Murdoch, had no immediate comment on Zucker’s characterizations. One of its reporters, Trey Yingst, tweeted a series of links to Fox news stories, saying, “if you don’t think Fox News is a `journalistic organization,’ I’d encourage you to take a look at the work my colleagues have done over the last year.”

Zucker said he wasn’t surprised that Smith quit as a news anchor at Fox two weeks ago and that he’d be interested in having him at CNN when Smith’s no-compete provision expires.

“He’s somebody I think is incredibly talented,” he said.

Despite internal and external criticism, Zucker said it was important to reflect the point of view of the president and his supporters. CNN has had a checkered history with paid pro-Trump contributors like Corey Lewandowski, and recently hired former Wisconsin congressman Sean Duffy.

“It is hard to find people who will come on and support the president’s point of view,” he said. “We need these voices.”

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