CNN CEO Defends Trump Town Hall: ‘All Voices Should Be Heard’

On Friday, Warner Bros. Discovery chief executive David Zaslav spoke in defense of CNN’s upcoming town hall interview with Donald Trump, saying that the former president deserves airtime on the news network. “He’s a frontrunner. He has to be on our network,” Zaslav said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” program in a segment posted to Twitter, speaking of the Trump town hall scheduled for prime time on May 10. “We’re happy he’s coming on there.” Zaslav, who oversees a media empire encompassing CNN, HBO, and Hollywood studio Warner Bros., appeared on CNBC the day the company reported a $1.07 billion first-quarter loss. When host Joe Kernen mentioned that Trump would be on CNN, Zaslav replied, “He should be.” The CEO first defended the direction CNN is heading under his leadership, saying it “has the greatest journalists and the largest group of journalists in the world,” with over 80 people on the ground in Ukraine, Poland, and Russia to report the ongoing conflict. Zaslav then pivoted back to U.S. politics, saying that Americans have a “divided government” and need to hear from both sides of the political debate. “The U.S. is a divided government,” Zaslav told hosts Joe Kernan and Andrew Ross Sorkin. “We need to hear both voices. That’s what you see. Republicans are on the air at CNN. Democrats are on the air. All voices should be heard on CNN.” “There are a number of advocacy networks out there,” he added. “Our focus is to be a network about the best version of the facts—just as Carl Bernstein would say, great journalism, and not just politics, either. But when we do politics, we need to represent both sides.” Later in the interview, Sorkin posted a “business question,” asking Zaslav whether CNN can stay “as profitable as it used to be” while presenting both sides of a political argument. Zaslav didn’t directly answer that question but said the upcoming “great political season” should benefit the business. “This is new CNN,” he said. “I’m proud of CNN. We’re on a great journey. This country needs it: journalism, facts, broad aperture.” Warner Bros. Discovery, formed last year via a $43 billion merger of AT&T’s WarnerMedia unit and Discovery, is the owner of CNN, HBO, TNT, TBS, Discovery Channel, Cartoon Network, Food Network, Warner Bros., and streaming services HBO Max and Discovery Plus. According to its financial report released Friday, the company closed the first quarter with a net loss of $1.07 billion, which included $1.81 billion of “acquisition-related intangible assets and $95 million of pre-tax restructuring expenses.” It also indicated that the debt it took on to fund the 2022 merger was affecting its cash flow, noting that it had $836 million of “semi-annual interest payments largely attributable to merger-related debt.” Despite the overall loss, the company’s streaming unit successfully turned to a $50 million profit, compared with a $654 million loss in the year-ago period and a $217 million loss in the fourth quarter. Zaslav told investors that he “feels great about the trajectory we are on” and is confident that the U.S. business will be profitable in 2023.

CNN CEO Defends Trump Town Hall: ‘All Voices Should Be Heard’

On Friday, Warner Bros. Discovery chief executive David Zaslav spoke in defense of CNN’s upcoming town hall interview with Donald Trump, saying that the former president deserves airtime on the news network.

“He’s a frontrunner. He has to be on our network,” Zaslav said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” program in a segment posted to Twitter, speaking of the Trump town hall scheduled for prime time on May 10. “We’re happy he’s coming on there.”

Zaslav, who oversees a media empire encompassing CNN, HBO, and Hollywood studio Warner Bros., appeared on CNBC the day the company reported a $1.07 billion first-quarter loss. When host Joe Kernen mentioned that Trump would be on CNN, Zaslav replied, “He should be.”

The CEO first defended the direction CNN is heading under his leadership, saying it “has the greatest journalists and the largest group of journalists in the world,” with over 80 people on the ground in Ukraine, Poland, and Russia to report the ongoing conflict.

Zaslav then pivoted back to U.S. politics, saying that Americans have a “divided government” and need to hear from both sides of the political debate.

“The U.S. is a divided government,” Zaslav told hosts Joe Kernan and Andrew Ross Sorkin. “We need to hear both voices. That’s what you see. Republicans are on the air at CNN. Democrats are on the air. All voices should be heard on CNN.”

“There are a number of advocacy networks out there,” he added. “Our focus is to be a network about the best version of the facts—just as Carl Bernstein would say, great journalism, and not just politics, either. But when we do politics, we need to represent both sides.”

Later in the interview, Sorkin posted a “business question,” asking Zaslav whether CNN can stay “as profitable as it used to be” while presenting both sides of a political argument. Zaslav didn’t directly answer that question but said the upcoming “great political season” should benefit the business.

“This is new CNN,” he said. “I’m proud of CNN. We’re on a great journey. This country needs it: journalism, facts, broad aperture.”

Warner Bros. Discovery, formed last year via a $43 billion merger of AT&T’s WarnerMedia unit and Discovery, is the owner of CNN, HBO, TNT, TBS, Discovery Channel, Cartoon Network, Food Network, Warner Bros., and streaming services HBO Max and Discovery Plus.

According to its financial report released Friday, the company closed the first quarter with a net loss of $1.07 billion, which included $1.81 billion of “acquisition-related intangible assets and $95 million of pre-tax restructuring expenses.” It also indicated that the debt it took on to fund the 2022 merger was affecting its cash flow, noting that it had $836 million of “semi-annual interest payments largely attributable to merger-related debt.”

Despite the overall loss, the company’s streaming unit successfully turned to a $50 million profit, compared with a $654 million loss in the year-ago period and a $217 million loss in the fourth quarter. Zaslav told investors that he “feels great about the trajectory we are on” and is confident that the U.S. business will be profitable in 2023.