When CNN's CEO, Chris Licht, took over the company a year ago, he dreamed of moving the outlet to the political center. CNN had already suffered from terrible ratings. Brian Stelter, a former employee of CNN, reported that Licht's enemies within CNN, citing continued sagging ratings, appear to be galvanized in the aftermath of Trump's successful CNN Town Hall appearance in New Hemisphere and are convinced the CEO is finished as per Newsmax.
"That anti-Licht sentiment is shared by many in the CNN rank and file, and has existed to some extent for months, but The Atlantic article cemented it [published this weekend about the internal fallout in the company after Trump's town hall appearance]," Stelter wrote. "In the words of three employees: 'He's over.' 'He's done.' 'There's no coming back from that profile." Stelter, however, may be playing out a game of personal vendetta against the CEO as Licht showed the door to Stelter last August shortly after taking over the outlet.
That Atlantic article highlighted how Licht was losing the confidence of his employees in the newsroom and the backlash Licht received from the Trump town hall event. The DC Enquirer also previously reported about the internal struggle among CNN employees that resisted Licht's mandate for moderation of the network's content.
Anderson Cooper, for instance, after the Trump town hall event publically said that viewers had a right never to watch CNN again because the outlet had given Trump a platform to speak (even if CNN's representative on stage with Trump was heavily biased against him). This attack seems disingenuous given that Mr. Cooper is rather hypocritical given his platforming of Trump back in 2016.
Business Insider reported that Licht apologized to his staff for the article's focus on him. He reportedly said, "I know these past few days have been very hard for this group...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...I should not be in the news unless it's taking arrows for you. Your work is what should be written about," the CEO added. "To those whose trust I've lost, I will fight like hell to win it back, because you deserve a leader who will be in the trenches, fighting to ensure CNN remains the world's most trusted name in news."
Stelter writes that he was told by his contacts in the place of his former employment that Licht "was dealt a bad hand, and then he played it badly" and that a staffer told Stelter that "It's very frustrating that we learn more about Licht's motivations from interviews than we do from internal communication."
When Licht brings up the past failing of CNN in terms of its lopsided COVID coverage, this angers the employees who think such criticism emboldens the right. They told Stelter that "[e]ven if he [Licht] thinks these things, if he's so concerned with the CNN brand, what is the point of saying any of this stuff publicly...Just giving haters on the right more ammo to bash us with while giving skeptics on the left more ammo to justify turning us off. How does any of this help anything?"
Yet, for all the bashing of Licht, one fact remains true. Trump's CNN appearance brought high rantings as 781,000 of the key demographic of 25-51-year-olds viewed CNN's event compared to 320,000 such viewers for Fox News' Trump town hall a few weeks after.