Ex-CNN Chief Jeff Zucker Says Media Is Overplaying “Horse Race” Polls With Donald Trump Leading Joe Biden, Finds Twitter/X A Less Reliable News Source In Elon Musk Era

Jeff Zucker, former head of CNN who now runs media investment fund RedBird IMI, believes the media is overplaying polls showing former President Donald Trump leading Joe Biden.

Appearing at the Yahoo Finance Invest conference in New York, Zucker said it is a “real possibility” that Trump could return to the White House. In preparing for that scenario and covering the yearlong runup to the 2024 election, Zucker said the “key” for news outlets is “not to get caught up” in early poll results. A recent New York Times/Siena College poll showed Biden trailing Trump in five of the six states that helped Biden prevail in 2020.

More from Deadline

“That continues to be a huge mistake in the media,” he said. “If you went by the poll in 1983, you would have thought there was no way that Ronald Reagan would win re-election. Or the poll in 2011 — there’s no way Barack Obama could have won re-election.”

Although Zucker conceded that “the world has changed a lot” since those prior examples, it should remain a priority to put poll results in context.

“I made this mistake” during his CNN tenure, Zucker admitted. “I always try to be self-aware of these things. We would often pay attention too much to polls as well. … I think that this is a time that requires much more reporting” instead of dwelling on the “horse race” reflected by polls a year ahead of Election Day.

Painting a picture of what a second Trump administration might look like, in terms of the Cabinet makeup and its objectives, is something some print and digital outlets have done, Zucker said, and cable news should follow suit.

“We are at a critical time in America, and I do think American democracy is very much on the line,” he said. As an example of the direction TV networks should take, Zucker cited an interview ABC host George Stephanopoulos did last weekend with House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA), in which Scalise was asked five times whether he thought the 2020 election was stolen. He declined to answer each time.

RELATED: Footage Of Oct. 7 Hamas Terror Attack & Massacre To Be Shown In Hollywood & New York This Week

Asked about coverage of the Israel-Hamas war, Zucker said it needed to foreground the October 7 assault by Hamas on Israeli civilians. “By and large, the media coverage has been very strong,” he said, despite some inevitable mistakes due to “the fog of war.” Moving forward, he said, “there aren’t two sides to terror, and I don’t think you can ever forget that.

The situation in the Middle East has brought fresh scrutiny on the role played by Twitter, now X, in the information equation. While he didn’t call out Elon Musk by name, Zucker said the social media platform has declined during the year since Musk acquired the company for $44 billion.

“Twitter does need to take a look at what has happened over the past year,” he said. “I’m not sure it’s the reliable source of news and information that it could, and should, and would be.”

Best of Deadline

Sign up for Deadline's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.