CNN President Jeff Zucker said Thursday that he’s open to the idea of hiring Shepard Smith after the veteran broadcaster abruptly left Fox News this month, saying Mr. Smith is a “great journalist” and “truth-teller” who had no place peddling conspiracy theories on “state-run TV.”

Mr. Zucker spoke about Fox News in a discussion with CNN host Brian Stelter at the network’s CITIZEN forum, during which Mr. Stelter asked the network president whether he would consider hiring Mr. Smith.

“I think Shep’s a great journalist,” Mr. Zucker answered. “When he’s available, he is somebody who I think is incredibly talented and I would be very open to talking to him.”

“I was not that surprised,” he said of Mr. Smith’s departure. “I think it had become untenable for somebody there who was a truth-teller and who set out on a regular basis to hold those in power accountable. That is not something that organization does. That is not something that is in full force there. It’s not even in half force.”

“They say they have dozens of great journalists,” Mr. Stelter added.

Mr. Zucker fired back, “You repeat that line a lot and I think it’s one of the mistakes you make in your journalism.”

“Are there a handful of really good journalists in that organization? Sure,” the network president continued. “Is there one or two really good anchors in that organization? Sure. But that doesn’t make it a news organization, and it doesn’t make it a journalistic enterprise.”

“What is it then?” Mr. Stelter asked.

“It’s akin to state-run TV. I think it’s morphed into conspiracy TV,” Mr. Zucker responded. “And it’s not a place where somebody like Shep Smith could work.

“I don’t think it’s a journalistic organization,” he said, adding that there’s no difference between opinion programming and news programming at Fox News.

“It’s doing a disservice to the country,” he said, accusing the Murdochs of being “responsible for a lot of the problems in this country by having instituted a tremendous amount of conspiracies in this country. That’s why I think the way you and others characterize that organization as having a news side and an opinion side is completely erroneous.”

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