CNN CEO Chris Licht out days after devastating expose

Embattled CNN boss out after chaotic 16-month reign at network

Bevan Hurley
Wednesday 07 June 2023 15:34 BST
CNN’s anchors lead horrified reaction to Trump town hall

CNN CEO Chris Licht has been ousted from the network after just 16 months in the job.

The axing comes just days after a devastating expose in The Atlantic revealed he had lost the confidence of the newsroom.

The news was first reported by Puck News, and quickly matched by CNN’s own media reporter Oliver Darcy, who had written a series of scathing newsletters about his former boss.

Mr Licht’s departure comes amid unprecedented turmoil at the cable news juggernaut, which has seen ratings and profits plummet, and top stars such as Don Lemon fired.

Mr Licht oversaw the network’s attempted courting of Donald Trump, resulting in a disastrous New Hampshire Town Hall event last month.

The final straw for Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav appeared to be the publication of a behind-the-scenes 15,000 article by Atlantic writer Tim Alberta last week.

Mr Alberta spent 12 months embedded with the 51-year-old and gained unparalleled access to the CNN newsroom, while lifting the veil on the media executive’s attempts to win over Republican lawmakers and viewers.

Chris Licht oversaw a chaotic 16 month reign at CNN

Former CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter, who was also fired by Mr Licht, wrote on Twitter that Mr Zaslav addressed the newsroom minutes after the news was revealed.

“I met with Chris and he will be leaving CNN,” Mr Zaslav reportedly told CNN staff.

Mr Licht had “poured his heart and soul into this job”, but that “for a number of reasons, it didn’t work out”, Mr Zaslav said.

“I take full responsibility.”

In a statement, Mr Zaslav said: “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.”

Mr Licht will be replaced by an acting leadership team of CNN veterans Amy Entelis, Virginia Moseley and Eric Sherling while a search begins for his successor, Mr Zaslav reportedly told staff.

Tech journalist and podcast host Kara Swisher, who predicted Mr Licht would be fired on Tuesday night, wrote that it was the “correct move but still a big black eye for King Z”.

Writing on Tuesday night in CNN’s Reliable Sources newsletter, Mr Darcy described a network in open rebellion against its own boss.

“There are a wide range of emotions coursing through the halls of CNN. Some staffers are frustrated. Others are angry. Many are sad about the awful state of affairs that has taken hold of an organisation they love,” he wrote.

“There is one near-universal sentiment, however, that has been communicated to me: Licht has lost the room.”

Mr Licht replaced longtime CNN boss Jeff Zucker in February 2022 after his affair with a fellow executive at the network was exposed.

On Monday, he apologised to staff for the Atlantic article during an internal call.

The writing appeared to be on the wall for Mr Licht when David Leavy was announced as the network’s new chief operating officer last week.

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