NEW YORK (AP) — CNN chief Jeff Zucker sharply attacked the network's rivals at Fox News Channel on Thursday, saying that it has become a propaganda machine that is "doing an incredible disservice to the country."
Zucker spoke at the Financial Times Future of News conference two days after a former Fox military analyst quit, claiming he was ashamed at the way the network's opinion hosts were backing President Donald Trump. Zucker said that analyst, Ralph Peters, voiced what a lot of people have been thinking about Fox in the post-Roger Ailes era.
"What has happened to that network in the last 18 months, especially the last year, is that it has just turned itself into state-run TV," Zucker said. "TASS has nothing on them," he said in reference to the Russian news agency.
There was no immediate comment from a Fox representative.
However, Trump's former White House strategist, Steve Bannon, said later at the same conference that Zucker's comments were absurd. He said "you can't name a more propaganda outfit than CNN."
"Every night it's 'hate Trump,'" Bannon said. He questioned why anyone wasn't fired at CNN after the 2016 election results took many people by surprise.
Fox has maintained its ratings lead with a prime-time opinion lineup led by Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham. Together with MSNBC's left-leaning lineup, the two political talk networks are frequently the most popular destinations for viewers on cable television. Fox and MSNBC have been widening their lead in prime time over CNN, which recently announced that Chris Cuomo would join its prime-time lineup.
Zucker said that Fox has "a handful of good journalists but they get lost in the propaganda machine."
"The idea that they are a news channel is really not accurate at all," he said.
Zucker's network has been on the receiving end of withering criticism from Trump during his presidency. He's repeatedly referred to CNN as "fake news" when he doesn't like its coverage. Zucker said Trump's criticisms are not going to stop CNN from doing its job of holding leaders accountable.
But he said the Trump has created an atmosphere of hostility toward reporters that has spread from the U.S. across the world.
"He doesn't even understand the danger he is creating for journalists and the danger he is creating for news organizations," Zucker said.
However, he said the Trump administration has helped news organizations raise their games to cover what is going on.
"He has made American journalism great again," Zucker said.