The chiefs of CNN and Fox News Channel are throwing shots at each other, each suggesting the other's network is essentially out of the news business.
Fox News chairman Roger Ailes struck first, saying in an interview published last week that it was interesting for CNN "to throw in the towel and announce they're out of the news business". It was a reference to CNN President Jeff Zucker's efforts to expand CNN's offerings beyond breaking news.
"We happen to be in the business, as opposed to some other fair and balanced network," Zucker responded during a news conference, referring to the Fox News slogan. He suggested that Ailes' remarks, published in the Hollywood Reporter, were silly and an attempt to deflect attention from The Loudest Voice in the Room, a book on Ailes and Fox by New York Magazine writer Gabriel Sherman that is being published this month.
Zucker said he had not read the book, but that from what he heard it confirmed to him that "the Republican Party is being run out of News Corp headquarters masquerading as a cable news channel".
A Fox News spokeswoman said Ailes gave his Hollywood Reporter interview in December, suggesting it had nothing to do with Sherman's book. She had no other comment on what Zucker said during a meeting with journalists who cover television on Friday.
Zucker, in charge at CNN for a year now, has taken note of flat ratings in pushing CNN to diversify. Shows with chef Anthony Bourdain and Morgan Spurlock, ordered before Zucker came to CNN, are consistently among the networks' highest-rated. CNN has also beefed up its documentary film unit.
The films drew some barbs from Ailes, as well, particularly the successful Blackfish, about killer whales. "I guess he's going to do whales a lot," Ailes said. "If I were Discovery, I'd be worried."
Zucker said CNN had several other new series in the works. In March, CNN will premiere Death Row Stories, a series produced by Robert Redford and Alex Gibney and narrated by Susan Sarandon. CNN is also continuing its concentration on the 1960s with a 10-part series beginning in May.