CNN CEO Steps Down After Short & Controversial Tenure

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Chris Licht is out after just a year as chief executive at CNN following a series of missteps and plunging ratings. David Zaslav, the CEO of CNN’s parent company (Warner Bros Discovery), announced the leadership change, which was effective immediately, on CNN’s morning editorial call on Wednesday. Zaslav appointed a four-person leadership team to lead the network in the interim — Amy Entelis, Virginia Moseley, Eric Sherling and David Leavy.

“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 a memo to CNN staff.

Licht replaced Jeff Zucker as CNN’s chief executive last year with a mandate to move the network more towards the political center. But a town hall meeting with Donald Trump received wide criticism, and a revamp of the network’s morning show imploded with the firing of presenter Don Lemon. During the broadcast, Trump made various controversial claims about his 2020 election loss, said that if elected he would pardon many supporters convicted of taking part in a January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, and called CNN moderator Kaitlan Collins a “nasty person” — leading to staunch criticism directed at Licht.

On top of this, a lengthy and critical profile of Licht in The Atlantic magazine, which came out on Friday, proved embarrassing and likely sealed his fate. Only two days ago, Licht promised on the same morning editorial call to fight to regain the trust of CNN employees. But internally, Licht couldn’t gain the support of many at the network who felt loyal to Zucker, the CNN chief that had been forced out following the revelation of an improper relationship with a colleague.

CNN’s ratings have been sagging for years and many have felt that the networks recent actions have alienated whatever consistent base they had left. In May, its prime-time viewership was less than half of rival MSNBC, as the Fox News Channel still leads in the ratings among the cable networks.