Christ Licht steps down as head of CNN

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Just over a year after he took the reins at CNN, Christ Licht is out at the network. Licht stepped down as chairman and CEO of CNN Worldwide Wednesday, following a growing tide of controversy following the network’s live town hall with Donald Trump and an unflattering 15,000-word profile in The Atlantic.

“I have great respect for Chris, personally and professionally,” said David Zaslav, president and CEO, Warner Bros. Discovery, CNN’s parent company. “The job of leading CNN was never going to be easy, especially at a time of huge disruption and transformation, and he has poured his heart and soul into it. While we know we have work to do as we look to identify a new leader, we have absolute confidence in the team we have in place and will continue to fight for CNN and its world class journalism.”

Licht’s time at the network always had an undercurrent of tension, as the CNN+ streaming service was shut down soon after he started. That tension ramped up, though, following CNN’s town hall with Donald Trump that was packed with cheering fans of the former president. Ratings nosedived following that event, falling at one point below those of ultra-right wing network Newsmax, which has much smaller distribution on cable systems.

It was the profile in The Atlantic, though, (entitled “Inside the Meltdown at CNN”) that likely sealed his fate. Licht apologized to CNN staff Monday in a staff call, but it apparently wasn’t enough to mend fences.

Licht’s resignation, came days after David Leavy, an ally of Zaslav, was named chief operating officer at CNN. Leavy—along with EVP of talent and content development, Virginia Moseley, EVP of editorial, and Eric Sherling, EVP of US programming—will run the network as the search for a CEO begins.

Licht replaced former CEO Jeff Zucker, who was forced to resign in early 2022 after failing to disclose a relationship with a coworker. Prior to taking control at CNN, Licht was vice president of programming for CBS News and executive producer of the network’s morning news program, “CBS This Morning,” which he helped launch in 2012. He was also the co-creator and original executive producer of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

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