CNN President Jeff Zucker blasted Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani over his involvement in the Hunter Biden email controversy in the final weeks of the 2020 election, according to the latest batch of leaked network conference call recordings released Thursday.
Project Veritas has been making headlines this week after it revealed it had been secretly recording CNN's daily conference calls over the past two months. On Wednesday, audiotapes revealed that CNN's upper brass, including Zucker and CNN Political Director David Chalian, made a concerted effort for the news organization to avoid the explosive reporting from The New York Post that shed light on Hunter Biden's questionable foreign business dealings before and after his father, then-Democratic nominee Joe Biden, was in office as vice president.
But Thursday's released recording showed that on Oct. 16, just two days after the Post broke the Hunter Biden story, Zucker took aim at Giuliani, who was a key figure in the saga after it was revealed that it was Giuliani's lawyer who obtained a copy of Biden's laptop hard drive and later shared its contents with the press.
"There is a term for what Rudy Giuliani is suspected of being, which is 'useful idiot,'" Zucker is heard saying on the conference call. "On the Rudy Giuliani story, this is a really important story. It gets tied to the Hunter Biden disinformation campaign. That's the way we do this because it's all tied and part-and-parcel of one."
"From 'America's mayor'," Zucker quipped, referring to Giuliani's nickname from the aftermath of 9/11, "to 'useful idiot'."
On a Nov. 23 call, the CNN honcho alluded to Giuliani when knocking President Trump's "crazy legal team" as it pursued a legal battle to challenge the results of the 2020 presidential election.
In the exchange, Zucker was speaking to someone who Project Veritas referred to only as a "call participant" named "Carl," which could possibly have been CNN political analyst Carl Bernstein.
"The real craziness is the client, not the lawyers," Carl told Zucker. "And I wonder if maybe we ought to be pointing that out rather specifically. This gets back to Mary Trump even."
Carl was referring to the president's niece, psychologist and frequent CNN guest Mary Trump, who earlier this year profited off the family name with a tell-all book slamming her uncle.
"This is his pathology. We're back to a sociopath. I'm not saying we should use that word 'sociopath' as we say, but what others who have dealt with him -- Mattis, all of them -- coming away saying, 'This man is crazy.' That's the real story, in some way," Carl explained.
"Right," Zucker agreed. "Well, I think you raise a good point about not just pawning it off on the crazy legal team, but the client is the one who is directing the crazy legal team."
"Damn, right," Carl reacted.
Appearing on "Hannity" on Thursday night, Project Veritas founder James O'Keefe told Fox News host Sean Hannity that "we haven't heard from anyone" after CNN Communications sent its threatening tweet saying they've referred him to law enforcement.
"People don't know they're being lied to, but these tapes show that the top-down approach to media, they show Zucker telling people what to cover, what not to cover -- calling [Giuliani] a 'useful idiot' there, telling them for political reasons don't cover certain stories," O'Keefe said. "Sean, these are the times that try men's souls and I think if you go one direction, you lose your conscience, another direction, you lose your livelihood. But there are brave people like the person we worked with regarding CNN who are willing to be citizen journalists, willing to expose these sorts of things."
He continued, "We need an army of these people reporting on our media because CNN and places like CNN may have more power than all three branches of government if they're working with Google and Facebook to propagandize the masses.
Ahead of the release of the full "raw" tapes of more than 50 recorded conference calls, O'Keefe told Hannity that what observers will see is "the submission by supposed journalists" to "Zucker's will."
"Investigative reporting is about unearthing facts from the bottom. That's not what you're seeing here," O'Keefe explained. "You're seeing how the sausage is made, you're seeing how the media actually works."
On another conference call recorded Sept. 11, an unidentified CNNer is heard praising the NFL for its efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus among its players, so much so that he suggested the sports organization should be "running the government."
"As I was reading through the comments, Jim Acosta talking to people in the crowd at the [Trump] rally last night and obviously seeing all of those pictures of no social distancing and very few people with masks on, et cetera, and the contrast to the football game last night where lots of masks, people socially distanced, the whole plan in place to protect the fans, the players the referees, the coaches, everybody, you know," the CNNer said.
The CNNer continued, "If the NFL was running the government, then things would probably be in much better shape than they are."
CNN did not immediately respond to Fox News' multiple requests for comment.
The #ExposeCNN campaign from Project Veritas began Tuesday morning after O'Keefe intruded on a conference call that took place earlier that day, revealing to Zucker directly that he had been recording the company's daily chats.
CNN Communications later responded, "Legal experts say this may be a felony. We‘ve referred it to law enforcement."
CNN did not respond to Fox News' inquiry regarding what law enforcement agency it reached out to.
Back in October, critics of CNN had pointed out the network's complete blackout of the Hunter Biden bombshell report from The New York Post. However, recordings of CNN's conference calls released Wednesday feature the upper brass of the network finally confirming suspicions of the news organization purposely suppressing the story that was damaging to the Biden campaign.
"Obviously, we're not going with the New York Post story right now on Hunter Biden," CNN Political Director David Chalian is heard saying during a conference call Oct. 14, the same day the Post released its first reports on Hunter Biden's emails. Chalian later insisted the report was "giving its marching orders" to the "rightwing echo chamber about what to talk about today."
Chalian, who also serves as a CNN vice president, continued, "Obviously, Hunter Biden's lawyer is quoted in the New York Post piece and we'll just continue to report out this is the very stuff that the president was impeached over, this is the stuff that Senate committees looked at and found nothing wrong in Joe Biden's interactions with Ukrainians and now having an email that perhaps there was a meeting with someone from Burisma, it seems. Rudy Giuliani's sort of 'dream-o-vision' of how to throw stuff at the wall in these closing days of the campaign."
On the Oct. 23 call, the day after the final presidential debate where President Trump hammered Biden over the recent revelations involving his son, Zucker referred to the story as a "rabbit hole" that "I don't think anybody outside of that [rightwing media] world understood last night" and later suggested the Wall Street Journal's reporting definitively proved Biden had "no role" in his son's business dealings with China as a reason for CNN not to pursue the story itself.
Zucker appeared to have alluded to the Hunter Biden email scandal in an Oct. 16 conference call that was released by Project Veritas on Tuesday in addition to the unmasking controversy involving top Obama administration officials, including now-President-elect Biden, requesting the identity of former Trump national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn during the transition -- both stories Zucker suggested the network shouldn't cover.
"The Trump media, you know, moves immediately from -- OK, well, never mind -- the unmasking was, you know, found to be completely nonsensical to the latest alleged scandal and expects everybody to just follow suit," Zucker told his staff. "So, I don't think that we should be repeating unsubstantiated smears just because the rightwing media suggests that we should."
Zucker's message on dismissing the Hunter Biden controversy appeared to have later resonated with his star anchor Jake Tapper, who said Oct. 22 that the allegations against Biden's son were "too disgusting" to repeat on air and that the "rightwing is going crazy."
In other recordings released by Project Veritas, Zucker repeatedly bashes President Trump, urging staffers not to "normalize" his "erratic" behavior during the election and suggesting that he's a "national security threat" for challenging the integrity of the Nov. 3 vote due to surge of mail-in voting.
O'Keefe compared future releases of other recordings to an "advent calendar" and that Project Veritas will be releasing more tapes "every day" through Christmas. He credited a "brave whistleblower insider" inside CNN who approached his organization and helped coordinate the conference call recordings.
Zucker has long expressed animus toward Trump but previously had a very close working relationship with the president as the CEO of NBC Universal at the height of NBC's hit reality show, "The Apprentice," which helped broaden Trump's popularity.