CNN Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Chris Licht has left the network after a brief but disastrous stint at the helm, a network executive told employees Wednesday.
Licht was only in charge for one year, but he made several major and terrible decisions, including that CNN would attempt a more neutral, nonpartisan approach to news coverage. That approach apparently translated to letting Donald Trump and Nikki Haley on air, live, to push falsehoods and extreme political stances.
Wednesday’s announcement came on the heels of a massive profile of Licht in The Atlantic, which portrayed him as overconfident but incapable of leading the network. It also revealed his stances on several major social issues.
Although Licht adopted a centrist approach, he expressed skepticism about trans-inclusive language for people who give birth and said that people of color with elite degrees don’t count as diversity. Licht also believed officials may have overcounted the numbers of Covid-19 deaths and that it’s hard to have “difficult conversations without being demonized or labeled.”
Licht promised to win employees’ trust back after the profile was published, but the writing was already appearing on the wall. His year as CEO was rife with layoffs, low ratings, and tanking employee morale, according to CNN’s media reporter, Oliver Darcy.
Much of the internal drama came to light after Trump’s town hall, when employees expressed outrage that CNN had allowed the former president on air in such a format. Network employees called the town hall “a disaster,” “appalling,” and “a fucking disgrace.”
But while Licht is in the spotlight right now, he’s just a symptom of a larger issue. CNN Parent company Warner Brothers Discovery Inc. is led by David Zaslav. Zaslav, who announced Licht’s departure, is a main driver of the network’s supposed shift to the center. For him, that apparently means getting as many Republican guests on air as possible.
This post has been updated.