(Headline USA) CNN fired chief executive Chris Licht after a tumultuous year leading the struggling news network that culminated in a damning magazine profile and the growing realization that he’d lost the confidence of the network’s journalists.
The change was announced at CNN’s editorial meeting Wednesday morning and came just two days after Licht said he would “fight like hell” to earn the trust of those around him.
David Zaslav, CEO of CNN parent company Warner Bros. Discovery, said in a memo to CNN staff members that the job “was never going to be easy, especially at a time of great disruption and transformation.
“Chris poured his heart and soul into it,” he said. “He has a deep love for journalism and this business and that has been evident throughout his tenure. Unfortunately, things did not work out the way we had hoped—and ultimately that’s on me.”
Licht faced the near-impossible goal of trying to rehab the propagandist network’s image after it tarnished itself under the stewardship of former CEO Jeff Zucker, who maintanined a personal vendetta against then-President Donald Trump that many of his staff were happy to embrace.
Following Zucker’s ouster due to a sex scandal, Licht came aboard and made bold moves, including the firing of marquee show hosts Brian Stelter and Don Lemon, in a quixotic bid to reverse the trajectory and improve the flagging post-Trump ratings.
However, the culture that thrived under Zucker remained largely intact, including the leftist hive-mind, which quickly began gunning for the more moderating influence after Licht dared to give a platform to Trump, the likely Republican presidential nominee, in a town-hall forum, causing a primal shriek from his staff and much of the leftist media ecosystem.
Licht oversaw layoffs last year following Zaslav’s decision to shutter the CNN+ streaming service only weeks after it had started.
A lengthy profile of Licht in Atlantic magazine that came out on Friday, titled “Inside the Meltdown at CNN,” proved embarrassing and likely sealed his fate.
Some journalists were angered because of Licht’s criticism of some of CNN’s COVID coverage before he had arrived.
Some of CNN’s chief anchors—Jake Tapper, Anderson Cooper and Erin Burnett—had privately expressed their reservations about Licht’s leadership, according to a Wall Street Journal article that was posted Tuesday evening.
Meanwhile, viewers were disappearing. CNN’s prime-time viewership of 494,000 in May was down 16% from April and was less than half of its closest news rival, MSNBC.
Zaslav appointed four current CNN executives—Amy Entelis, Virginia Moseley, Eric Sherling and David Leavy— to run the network while a search for a replacement is conducted.
“We are in good hands, allowing us to take the time we need to run a thoughtful and thorough search for a new leader,” Zaslav said in the memo.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press