By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated January 08, 2002 01:00 PM

Hard news got a kick in the pants on Monday, when CNN executives said they were “outraged” that their network (which, like PEOPLE, is part of AOL Time Warner) ran a promotional spot that touted morning sportscaster Paula Zahn as “just a little sexy.” The 15-second ad was yanked off the air after it was broadcast repeatedly over the weekend in error, CNN executives said. “I was outraged and so was Paula Zahn, who has spent more than 20 years proving her credibility day in and day out on the air,” CNN chairman and CEO Walter Isaacson said in a statement. He said the ad was “never seen or approved by anyone outside our promotions department” before it hit the air, and called the airing of it “a major blunder” by that group. In the spot, a voice-over asks: “Where can you find a morning news anchor who’s provocative, super-smart — oh yeah, and just a little sexy?” Then the music pauses and the voice says: “CNN, yeah, CNN.” Zahn, 45, said in a statement: “I had no idea of the promo until it aired; when I saw it I was offended.” Zahn is a 10-year CBS News veteran who joined the Fox News Channel as an evening news anchor in 1999 before she jumped over to rival CNN in September to host its morning news show, for a nearly $2 million annual paycheck. She first appeared on CNN on Sept. 11 during coverage of the terrorist attacks on the United States.