"I said to Jeff, 'Really, you should give me an hour in prime time,' " he says. "In retrospect, I realize how incredibly audacious that was, but at the time, I don't think I did. But Jeff said, 'All right. Write the script, and we'll see.' "
It took a week to put the script together, but Tapper says that on the Saturday at the end his second week at CNN, he received an email from Zucker saying, "It's great. I love it. Let's do it."
Five days later, "the piece was airing in prime time," Tapper says. "And at the second commercial break, my wife turned me and said, 'God, you made the right decision.' "
So far, so good. But Tapper knows how quickly things can change in the TV news business when a new show doesn't work. And CNN has had plenty of those in recent years.
"I have a very candid and friendly relationship with Jeff, and it's been a pleasure so far," Tapper says. "Now, hit me up in a year, and we'll see if I have any complaints."
"The Lead" premieres at 4 p.m. Monday on CNN. It airs weekdays.