His Job Security Shaky, CNN's Boss Apologizes

Network CEO's job appears to be in jeopardy after scathing profile in 'Atlantic'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 5, 2023 10:35 AM CDT
CNN Boss Chris Licht Apologizes to Staff
Chris Licht in a file photo.   (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

CNN chief Chris Licht had such a bad weekend that some thought he might tender his resignation when addressing the staff Monday morning. Instead, the 51-year-old offered an apology and vowed to earn back the trust of people he let down, reports CNBC. The controversy stems from an in-depth profile of Licht in the Atlantic that provides a scathing assessment of his first year on the job.

  • Apology: "I should not be in the news unless it’s taking arrows for you," Licht told his staffers, per Variety. "Your work is what should be written about." At another point, he said: "To those whose trust I've lost, I will fight like hell to win it back."
  • The profile: Read it here. Licht gave months of access to Atlantic reporter Tim Alberta for the piece headlined "Inside the Meltdown at CNN," and he likely regrets it now. The Hollywood Reporter has highlights. Among other things, Licht comes off as thin-skinned to criticism and out of touch with his news department (he moved the CEO office up to the executive suites from the news offices). One nugget in wide circulation has Licht telling Donald Trump to "have fun" before the network's town hall with him, an event that has been widely criticized by CNN's own staffers.

  • That was me? Licht told employees Monday he didn't recognize himself in the 15,000-word profile, in which he was quoted at length. At one point in the piece, he criticized CNN's own coverage of the pandemic as overhyped, an allegation that's said to have particularly rankled his employees. "As I read that article, I found myself thinking, CNN is not about me," Licht said, per the Hill. He added: "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."
  • Can he survive? That's the question posed by media writer (and former CNN host) Brian Stelter at New York. Stelter says he has heard from many CNN staffers over the weekend and quotes three of them: "He's over," "he's done," and "there's no coming back from that profile." However, the only person who can truly answer the question is Licht's boss, David Zaslav, head of Warner Bros. Discovery. Zaslav already has made one key move: He brought in David Leavy as CNN's chief operating officer to assess the damage. The move means that Licht's duties have been diluted and he'll shift his focus mainly to programming and news.
(More Chris Licht stories.)

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