NABJ said in a statement that its preliminary research showed that CNN has no black employees reporting to CNN President Jeff Zucker. It also showed that the news organization has no black executive producers as well as no black vice presidents or senior vice presidents on the news side.
CNN disputed the group’s finding that there are no black vice presidents on the news side, according to NABJ. But the news network did not provide the name or position of the vice president or vice presidents, NABJ said.
The NABJ said a four-person delegation sought to meet with Zucker but that the CNN president refused to do so because of “a personal issue between CNN and NABJ’s Vice President-Digital Roland Martin” stemming from Martin’s participation in a 2016 town hall with then-Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
“Previously, former Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile admitted, according to a Time essay, she inadvertently disclosed a town hall topic to the Clinton campaign that was part of Martin’s research inquiry for the town hall,” the NABJ statement reads.
“NABJ’s request to meet was and is focused solely on CNN’s diversity efforts, its results and our strategic priorities as an organization,” the statement continued.
CNN said in a statement shared with The Hill that it was open to meeting with members of the group’s leadership team, but said that it would not be part of any meetings involving Martin.
“For months, we have been working with NABJ to schedule a meeting because the relationship between CNN and NABJ is very important to us. As we have told them many times, we look forward to a thoughtful discussion about how both of our organizations can continue to work together. Unfortunately, the significant and reckless damage that Roland Martin did to CNN while partnering with us during a 2016 Democratic Town Hall has made any meeting that includes him untenable,” CNN said in the statement.
“Mr. Martin displayed an unprecedented and egregious lack of journalistic ethics and integrity by leaking questions prior to the town hall. As a result, we have told NABJ that CNN will not participate in any meeting that includes him. We have made it abundantly clear that we would be more than happy to sit down with the rest of their leadership team as soon as possible, and that offer still stands,” the network added.
NABJ said its next step will include further research and analysis on CNN’s “diversity, inclusion and equity practices.” The group also said it is calling for a “civil rights audit” to examine CNN’s “hiring, promotion and compensation practices involving black employees.”
The group said that it its delegation is engaged in “very positive outreach” with other media companies and has met or scheduled meetings with ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC.
Last year, former CNN morning anchor Soledad O’Brien slammed the network and the cable news industry at large for what she said is a lack of diversity on the senior level.
The criticism came after O’Brien reacted to a CNN report stating that President Trump did not have any African-Americans on his senior staff following the dismissal of former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman last year.
The former “Apprentice” reality show contestant was the most senior black person in the administration, serving as director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison until her firing in 2018.
“Very terrible! But, uh, walk me through the senior black staff at @CNNPolitics or @cnn or, hey, I’ll take cable news,” O’Brien wrote in an August 2018 tweet.
Very terrible! But, uh, walk me through the senior black staff at @CNNPolitics or @cnn or, hey, I’ll take cable news….CNN Politics✔@CNNPoliticsPresident Donald Trump has no black people in the senior White House staffhttps://cnn.it/2B8EKE4
O’Brien was co-anchor of “American Morning” on CNN from 2003-2007 and anchor of “Starting Point” from 2012-2013.