Zaslav Champions 'Both Sides' Journalism For CNN: 'We Need to Hear Both Voices'

David Zaslav on CNBC 'Squawk Box'
(Image credit: CNBC)

Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav used a Thursday appearance on CNBC's Squawk Box to defend the cable news network's decision to bring embattled former President Donald Trump back on its air, while also declaring the channel's commitment to "both-sides" journalism. 

"He should be ... he should be," Zaslav said, after Squawk Box host Joe Kernen asked him to confirm that Trump is really returning to CNN after a lengthy absence for a town hall event on May 10. 

"The U.S. has a divided government. We need to hear both voices," Zaslav said. "Democrats are on the air on CNN, Republicans are on the air on CNN. All voices should be heard on CNN." 

Zaslav was appearing on Squawk Box to discuss broader WBD issues on the day the media company reported first-quarter earnings. CNBC posted the entire three-minute, 32-second CNN portion (opens in new tab) of the interview focused on CNN on Twitter. 

Trump, of course, isn't just any Republican voice. After receiving vast amounts of exposure on CNN in the run-up to his successful 2016 Presidential bid, Trump regularly shunned the network as "fake news," and often refused to engage CNN journalists during his presidency.

Beyond the issue of the network's basic sense of self-dignity and pride, critics have pointed out that Trump is currently facing numerous criminal indictments, and has spearheaded a movement to undermine the credibility of U.S. elections. 

After everything that's happened, is it a good idea to still hear Trump's "side," they ask?

“Donald Trump is a flagrant misogynist on trial for rape, an insurrectionist under investigation for attempting to overturn an election, and a notorious liar under indictment for hush money payments to an adult film star from his political campaign. CNN’s decision to provide Trump with a platform is dangerous," said Shaunna Thomas, co-founder and executive director of UltraViolet, a leading national gender equality advocacy organization. 

“We’ve been here before. We know what happens when a major network gives Donald Trump free airtime and an unfettered platform to spew lies and hate. It did not end well. CNN should cancel this event now."

For his part, Zaslav noted, "There are a number of advocacy networks out there ... Our focus is to be a network [about] the best version of the facts ... great journalism, and not just politics, either. But when we do politics, we need to represent both sides." 

For his part, Kernen's Squawk Box co-host, Andrew Ross Sorkin, wondered if that was a winning business strategy, given the currently low state of CNN's audience ratings. CNN saw a 61% year-over-year prime-time audience decline in March, for example.

"Look, we've got an election season coming, and this is a new CNN," Zaslav responded. 

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!