During his roughly one-year stint as CEO of CNN, Chris Licht seemed determined to bridge the gap between the network’s decidedly left-wing base and the millions of conservative and moderate Americans who saw no reason to tune in.
In the end, however, it seems clear that he only made things worse as CNN’s already low ratings continued to plummet during his time at the helm and employee morale reportedly suffered significantly.
The network confirmed on Wednesday that Licht would be stepping down.
CNN announces Chris Licht's departure on air pic.twitter.com/Attt6UAlsN
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 7, 2023
While a number of complaints apparently led to his ouster, one of the most commonly cited factors was a town hall event with former President Donald Trump last month. Although the programming gave CNN a ratings jolt, many leftists were outraged that the network would dare to give the 2024 GOP presidential primary front-runner a forum.
Until a permanent replacement is found, Licht’s role will be handled by a team including CNN executives Amy Entelis, Virginia Moseley, Eric Sherling, and David Leavy.
It remains to be seen whether CNN, which was on a steady decline long before Licht’s arrival, will be able to reverse its fortunes, but the chief executive of its parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, sought to strike an optimistic tone with employees in a statement on the matter.
“We have great confidence in this group and will fully support them until a new CEO is named,” said David Zaslav in a staff email. “We are in good hands, allowing us to take the time we need to run a thoughtful and thorough search for a new leader.”
He went on to “take full responsibility” for the situation involving Licht.
“For a number of reasons, things didn’t work out, and that’s unfortunate,” he said. “It’s really unfortunate. And ultimately that’s on me.”
One of Licht’s final acts as chief executive was to issue an apology to CNN staffers following a damning portrayal of his tumultuous term published by The Atlantic.
“I know these past few days have been very hard for this group,” he reportedly said during an editorial call on Monday. “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.”