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CNN’s Jeff Zucker Makes Bid For Jon Stewart, Talks About Brian Williams

Would Jon Stewart consider going from being the guy who helped kill off “Crossfire” to working for the network that aired it?

Jeff Zucker would welcome the chance to bring comedian Jon Stewart to CNN, though he recognizes the chances of that happening are pretty slim.

“I’m a huge admirer of what Jon Stewart does. We’d love to have him here at CNN,” the president of CNN Worldwide told journalists at a lunch meant to promote the debut of “The Wonder List,” a new nonfiction series featuring correspondent Bill Weir as he travels to India, the Galapagos, the Florida Everglades and the like to show viewers unique places in the world that may be in danger of being subsumed by technology, culture or modern civilization.

“Would there ever be room for him?” Zucker asked about Stewart. “The answer is yes.” The executive conceded Stewart is likely not interested in such a pairing after his nearly 17 years on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”

Stewart has long used his chair at “Daily” to rail against some of the ways CNN covers current events. In 2004 Stewart appeared on “Crossfire” and told hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson that the program indulged in “partisan hackery” and suggested its right vs. left discourse was “hurting America.” Those comments, former CNN executives have said publicly, contributed to the network’s decision to drop the show in 2005. CNN recently tried to revive the program with Newt Gingrich, among others, but did not gain much traction.

Zucker, formerly the chief executive of NBCUniversal and a veteran of NBC News, also offered a few comments on the recent imbroglio  involving Brian Williams at his former company. “I will say it’s obviously incredibly sad and disappointing to see what’s happening to Brian,” he said. “I feel really badly for him on a really human level. This has obscured a lot of really great work that Brian did.”

Other notes about CNN:

  • Executives at the Time Warner-owned cable-news outlet were taken aback by the amount of attention a quiz show set to run on Presidents Day has generated among press and viewers, Zucker said. “It’s a one-night thing, and the amount of interest in it has surprised us.”
  • CNN will air 12 different original series in 2015, Zucker said. “We feel very good with where we are,” he said. “We know the original series have brought in viewers who did not watch CNN.”
  • CNN will eventually find a successor for its Sunday-morning political talk show “State of the Union.” Candy Crowley, who had hosted the program, stepped down last year. “There is nothing imminent,” Zucker said. “We’ll get to it soon but don’t feel any pressure to do so.”
  • Zucker touted CNN’s morning-news program “New Day,” saying that the show had “more news” on it “than any other outlet in morning television.” When asked if “New Day” might embrace a puppy as NBC’s “Today” has recently done, Zucker said, “There will not be a puppy on ‘New Day,'” then noted, “Animals have been a proud tradition on ‘Today,’ and have always been part of its success. I’m not talking about any of the hosts.” (J. Fred Muggs, a chimpanzee, served as a mascot on “Today” between 1953 and 1957, some of the program’s earliest years on air.)

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