On Wednesday, network executives fired embattled CEO Chris Licht who came to CNN 13 months ago to save the sinking ship.
With former President Donald Trump’s loss in 2020, the network lost its primary target and floundered. Viewership plummeted as evidence surfaced noting the network’s handling of Russian collusion and Hunter Biden laptop stories were profoundly politically biased.
Licht made tough decisions, including firing high-profile network names — Don Lemon, Brian Stelter, Chris Cuomo and others — to regain credibility and note his desire to bring network commentary from far left to left-center.
Internal squabbling and resistance to shifting their political focus proved the backdrop to a perfect storm that struck the night Donald Trump denounced liberal politics and steamrolled over CNN host Kaitlan Collins during a CNN-coordinated town hall event.
Those opposing Licht’s leadership condemned his decision to invite Trump to a town hall event, though Licht argued that all viable candidates should have a right to express their views on a news platform.
One day after his ouster, Licht characterized his work at CNN as “an exciting but incredibly challenging assignment.”
Gracious in his comments, Licht said: “I learned a lot over the past 13 months.”
CNN Business reported Licht said: “I’ve been lucky enough to have had a successful, fulfilling career, and I look forward to my next chapter. I wish the team at CNN the very best, always.”
According to The New York Post, David Zaslav, head of CNN’s corporate parent, Warner Bros. Discovery, selected Licht to lead the network last May. His assignment was to “move the network away from the anti-Trump messaging” CNN became known for under former CEO Jeff Zucker.
Some suggest a scathing article in The Atlantic claiming Licht was an aloof and difficult leader who exhibited an “increasingly paranoid management style” prompted the final decision to release the CEO.
With ratings continuing to fall, employees in revolt, and The Atlantic article casting a negative light on Licht and the network, Zaslav decided to let his CEO go — Licht’s attempt to mend fences via personal and phone call apologies notwithstanding.
Licht said of CNNs staff: “I should not be in the news unless it’s taking arrows for you. Your work is what should be written about.”
A statement from Zaslav read: “I have great respect for Chris, personally and professionally. The job of leading CNN was never going to be easy, especially at a time of huge disruption and transformation, and he has poured his heart and soul into it.”
Zaslav noted that a new “acting leadership team” will lead the network until a new CEO is in place. The leadership team includes talent boss Amy Entelis, editorial head Virginia Moseley and programming chief Eric Sherling.
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