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Tags: cnn | chris licht | town hall | media bias | cancel

Stelter: CNN Staffers Believe CEO Licht Is 'Done'

By    |   Monday, 05 June 2023 12:05 PM EDT

CNN CEO Chris Licht signed up last year to head a once-leading network out of sagging ratings, with the plan to bring its ideology to the middle.

But The Atlantic's "Inside the Meltdown at CNN" published this weekend detailed the fallout for hosting a town hall with former President Donald Trump. Analyst Brian Stelter reported for New York magazine that his former CNN colleagues see Licht as "done" after just one year with ratings still sagging.

"That anti-Licht sentiment is shared by many in the CNN rank and file, and has existed to some extent for months, but The Atlantic article cemented it," Stelter wrote Sunday. "In the words of three employees: 'He's over.' 'He's done.' 'There's no coming back from that profile.' "

Stelter was canceled by Licht last August, just a few months after taking over CNN, having been shown the door with his personal friend, fired CEO Jeff Zucker.

CNN hosted a town hall with GOP presidential primary candidate Nikki Haley, and Stelter reported Licht's trip to Iowa for it will precede an address to CNN staff Monday morning.

"I know these past few days have been very hard for this group," Licht apologized to staff, Business Insider reported Monday morning. "I fully recognize that this news cycle and my role in it overshadowed the incredible week of reporting that we just had, and distracted from the work of every single journalist in this org. And for that, I am sorry.

"As I read that article, I found myself thinking, CNN is not about me. I should not be in the news unless it's taking arrows for you. Your work is what should be written about.

"To those whose trust I've lost, I will fight like hell to win it back, because you deserve a leader who will be in the trenches, fighting to ensure CNN remains the world's most trusted name in news."

Incoming COO David Leavy might be getting started before June 20, as originally planned, according to Stelter.

"[David] Zaslav is telling associates that Leavy is bringing adult supervision — a seeming indictment of Licht," Stelter claimed. "In the words of one host, 'Something has got to give.' " Leavy is a close associate to Discovery CEO Zaslav.

Stelter, who maintains connections inside CNN, claims he was told Licht "was dealt a bad hand, and then he played it badly."

Also, staffers feel alienated from Licht, who took an office suite away from the CNN staff.

"It's very frustrating that we learn more about Licht's motivations from interviews than we do from internal communication," a staffer told Stelter.

With CNN struggling, staffers are left embarrassed by public criticism of their own shortcomings, including Licht criticism the network overhyped COVID to its detriment — an allegation Stelter, an admitted COVID crusader himself, "rejected."

"Even if he thinks these things, if he's so concerned with the CNN brand, what is the point of saying any of this stuff publicly?" a staffer told Stelter of the COVID critique. "Just giving haters on the right more ammo to bash us with while giving skeptics on the left more ammo to justify turning us off. How does any of this help anything?"

CNN has been struggling to recapture its lost viewers and Licht's attempt to steer the network toward the middle to appeal to more Americans, reportedly led to the Trump town hall, which was his idea despite opposition among some CNN staffers.

Turning the dial to the middle at CNN, though, has many flipping out — if not flipping channels.

"He had hoped the Trump town hall would make believers out of his critics," The Atlantic's Tim Alberta wrote Friday. "Instead, it turned his few remaining believers into critics. I had never witnessed a lower tide of confidence inside any company than in the week following the town hall at CNN."

But CNN's Trump town hall brought almost a half million more viewers than even Fox News' last week, according to Mediaite.

The key 25- to 54-year-old demographic saw just 320,000 viewers on Fox News' Trump town hall, compared to 781,000 in the same demographic for CNN's, Mediaite noted.

After Alberta's piece, Stelter piled on, finding staffers who see Licht as "Trumpian."

"It's tempting to say Licht is entangled in a proxy war between Zucker and Zaslav and shrug at all the rich white guys fighting over a declining asset," Stelter wrote. "But that would be a mistake. This argument is about the proper function of journalism in a fractured democracy. It's about when and how and even whether news organizations should stand up to demagogues who want to destroy them.

"Judging from the near-unanimous criticism of CNN's Trump town hall last month, the Zaslav and Licht camp is losing the argument."

Eric Mack

Eric Mack has been a writer and editor at Newsmax since 2016. He is a 1998 Syracuse University journalism graduate and a New York Press Association award-winning writer.

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

CNN CEO Chris Licht signed up last year to head a once-leading network out of sagging ratings, with the plan to bring its ideology to the middle.
cnn, chris licht, town hall, media bias, cancel
Monday, 05 June 2023 12:05 PM
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