America will never recover its full prosperity and the jobs it can create as long as individual legislators yield to the blandishments and blackmail of special-interest groups.
Zuckerman is one of the Investors defrauded in a "Ponzi scheme", by way of Investments with Fifth Avenue Synagogue President J. Ezra Merkin who staked roughly 10% ($30 million) of Zuckerman's charitable trust fund with convicted scammer Bernard Madoff. Zuckerman has stated that all current charitable obligations will still be honored with no changes. At a forum at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York, he remarked that no one since Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, executed in 1953 for giving atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, "has so damaged the image and self respect of American Jews."
Zuckerman was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, the son of Esther and Abraham Zuckerman, who owned a tobacco and candy store. His family was Jewish, and his grandfather was an Orthodox rabbi. Zuckerman entered McGill University at the age of 16. He graduated from McGill with a BA in 1957 and a BCL in 1961, although he never took the bar exam. That same year, Zuckerman entered the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned an MBA degree with a distinction of honor. In 1962, he received an LLM degree from Harvard Law School.
While Zuckerman has varied in his party affiliations over time, since the late 1970s, he has donated more than $68,000 to US political candidates, with $42,700 going to Democratic politicians and $24,000 to independent interests.
In 1980, he purchased the literary magazine The Atlantic Monthly, where he was the chairman from 1980 to 1999. In 1999 he sold the magazine to David G. Bradley for US$12 million. Commenting on this sale and that of Fast Company magazine, which he sold for $365 million at the height of the tech boom in 2000, he quipped, "I averaged out."
While he still owned Atlantic Monthly, in 1984, Zuckerman bought U.S. News & World Report, where he remains its editor-in-chief. In 1993, he bought the New York Daily News, which he ran until 2017 when he sold the paper to Tronc.
In 1996, Zuckerman married Marla Prather (born 1956), a curator of the National Gallery of Art; they divorced in 2001.
Zuckerman is known to be a mentor to and close associate of Daniel M. Snyder, owner of the NFL football team Washington Redskins, and has been a financial backer to Snyder's Business ventures (CampusUSA magazine), and was a shareholder and Director in Snyder Communications Inc., a marketing services Business which was taken over in 2000 (by Havas Advertising).
Between 2001 and 2003, Zuckerman was the chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Typically, the nominating committee attempts to choose a person who is both respected and uncontroversial. However, Zuckerman was widely opposed by liberal Jewish factions. Nonetheless, Zuckerman was eventually elected and served a full term.
In their 2006 paper The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, John Mearsheimer, political science professor at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt, academic dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, named Zuckerman a member of the media wing of the "Israeli lobby" in the United States. Zuckerman replied: "I would just say this: The allegations of this disproportionate influence of the Jewish community remind me of the 92-year-old man sued in a paternity suit. He said he was so proud, he pleaded guilty."
President George W. Bush appointed Zuckerman to serve on the Honorary Delegation to accompany him to Jerusalem for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel in May 2008.
On April 6, 2009, Zuckerman filed a lawsuit against J. Ezra Merkin and his Gabriel Capital LP. The lawsuit claims fraud and negligent representation and seeks unspecified punitive damages. Merkin had a “huge incentive not to disclose Madoff’s role, especially to Investors like Zuckerman” because he charged clients “substantial fees” to manage both his Ascot Partners LP and Gabriel Capital. The lawsuit claims over US$40 million in losses for placing his assets with Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC without his knowledge. Zuckerman invested US$25 million with Merkin’s Ascot Fund in 2006 through his Charitable Remainder Trust or CRT Investments Limited and personally invested US$15 million with Merkin’s Gabriel Capital. Merkin charged Zuckerman a 1.5% fee and imposed significant “lock-up restrictions on redemptions", but his agreement with Gabriel Capital contains an arbitration clause against Merkin for his lost personal US$15 million investment. The lawsuit also named the accounting firm BDO Seidman LLP and a related entity called BDO Tortuga as defendants.
However, on March 2, 2010, he declined to run, citing family and work obligations.
In December 2012, Zuckerman pledged $200 million to endow the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute at Columbia University.
On the November 28, 2014, episode of The McLaughlin Group, Zuckerman said he was a vegan and has been since 2008, confirming what in November 2010 had been published in Bloomberg Businessweek, "The Rise of the Power Vegans." Zuckerman last appeared on The McLaughlin Group on July 31, 2015, making a strong case for Texas governor Rick Perry’s presidential run during that episode. A day later Zuckerman issued a statement that he would not be appearing at the East Hampton Artists-Writers softball game, the first time he would miss the game since 1993. The same month, the New York Post reported he turned over the sale of the paper to his nephews and has commented minimally on its dissolution.