CNN boss Chris Licht hasn’t received over rank and file on the community, insiders say

CNN boss Chris Licht hasn’t received over rank and file on the community, insiders say

The ghost of Jeff Zucker nonetheless haunts the halls of CNN because the community’s present chief tries to win over staffers who proceed mourning their fallen, scandal-plagued captain. 

Chris Licht has been tasked to hold out the mission directed from CNN’s new mum or dad firm Warner Bros. Discovery. Its CEO David Zaslav has been public about his needs for CNN to be extra balanced, saying in an interview final yr, “America wants a information community the place all people can come and be heard; Republicans, Democrats.” 

Licht formally took the reins in Could 2022 after Zucker was compelled out as CNN president simply over a yr in the past, and a few CNN workers are nonetheless eager for what they see as the great previous days, despite the fact that Zucker’s tenure was marked by its leftward lurch, sagging scores and a number of scandals.

“There are individuals who do not appear to get that the Jeff-era CNN is not even attainable,” a CNN insider informed Fox Information Digital. 


The insider in contrast the “Zucker loyalist” mindset to the 2022 movie “Do not Fear Darling” the place staffers are “refusing to acknowledge their world is not actual and getting offended at anybody who challenges it.”

“I feel a lot of the anchors have woken up, it is the rank and file,” the insider stated. “And it isn’t even about Jeff. It is extra the period.”

CNN boss Chris Licht hasn’t received over rank and file on the community, insiders say

Chris Licht oversaw “The Late Present with Stephen Colbert” earlier than taking the position of CNN CEO. (Photograph by Kevin Mazur/Getty Pictures for Warner Bros. Discovery)

Whereas the anchors have “woken up” to the fact that Zucker will not be returning, they are not essentially “believers” in Licht, both, in response to the supply. 

CNN declined to remark. 

Insiders level to how Zucker was recognized for “micromanaging” because the CNN boss and that he was hands-on when it got here to programming choices. Licht has taken a distinct method.

“They really feel like they’d course with Zucker. He was a micromanager,” a second CNN insider informed Fox Information Digital. “He’d have a look at scores each 5 minutes. He was very hands-on with reserving visitors. Chris Licht is a little more arms off. For no matter motive, the rank and file at CNN recognize Jeff Zucker’s method to management.” 


“Life was simpler for a lot of of them underneath Jeff and Warner Media,” the primary insider stated, referring to CNN’s former mum or dad firm earlier than the company merger that resulted in Warner Bros. Discovery. “That they had somebody telling them precisely what to do, they usually bought paid effectively to do it. Licht expects folks of that caliber to do unbelievable work with out him micromanaging.” 

What might need been Licht’s first impediment when boarding CNN was to confront its expertise about its liberal notion amongst a big swath of Individuals.

“I really like all of the folks at CNN, however journalists, reporters and analysts really imagine they’re neutral and they’re appalled to assume they’re considered as left-leaning,” the second CNN insider informed Fox Information Digital. “They had been aghast on the thought they did something lower than honest and balanced.” 

The insider praised Licht, who they are saying has “carried out lots to proper the ship,” however he nonetheless has his work minimize out for him.

Jeff Zucker, left, was replaced by CNN chairman and CEO Chris Licht in 2022.

Jeff Zucker, left, was changed by CNN chairman and CEO Chris Licht in 2022. (Mike Coppola/Getty Pictures)

Licht wasn’t given a honeymoon interval when he joined CNN, which had suffered a devastating blow simply days prior with the implosion of its streaming service CNN+, one thing that was developed throughout the Zucker period and was meant to be a part of the ex-boss’s long-lasting legacy on the community. 

One supply stated a “large supply of competition” amongst staffers was when CNN was hit with layoffs in November after they had been informed by Licht in June he did not anticipate such job cuts. One other insider on the time stated morale had collapsed on the community.

Licht’s newest check was addressing the disaster plaguing morning present host Don Lemon. The 56-year-old infuriated colleagues together with his sexist remarks earlier this month about girls like GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley, 51, being “previous their prime” on account of their age. Lemon issued a number of apologies, not all of them well-received, and Licht stated he had agreed to “formal coaching.” However some at CNN do not agree with how he dealt with it as Lemon returned to the airwaves final week.

“I don’t know why Don bought one other probability,” stated the second CNN insider.


Finally, it is a matter of belief. Insiders say it is not that staffers dislike Licht however moderately they merely miss Zucker, whose tenure from 2013 to 2022 noticed CNN veer sharply to the left and turn out to be outlined by its overt hostility in direction of Donald Trump.

“Zucker was out within the trenches throughout elections and debates. They went by means of the wars with him, they usually haven’t gone by means of that with Licht,” the insider stated. 

His tenure has been rocky to say the least. 

Along with the behemoth enterprise of restoring CNN’s journalistic credibility, Licht desperately wants to show across the community’s flailing viewership, which has solely gotten worse underneath his watch. One programming headache Licht inherited was CNN’s vacant 9 p.m. time slot emptied by the 2021 firing of Chris Cuomo. The void in primetime additional expanded when Licht pulled Lemon from his solo gig for a brand new morning present with Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins, a transfer broadly thought-about a demotion regardless of Lemon’s insistence on the contrary.

Embattled CNN host Don Lemon was given another chance by his boss Chris Licht following his sexist comments on the morning show he co-hosts with Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins.

Embattled CNN host Don Lemon was given one other probability by his boss Chris Licht following his sexist feedback on the morning present he co-hosts with Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins. (Mike Coppola/Getty Pictures for CNN)

Expectations had been excessive for what’s Licht’s first pet undertaking at CNN, since his resume contains launching MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and revitalizing “CBS This Morning” as its government producer. The present, “CNN This Morning,” stumbled proper out of the gate in November with lackluster viewership, even falling wanting Zucker’s brainchild “New Day.” 

Fixed tabloid drama and reported tensions between Lemon and his co-hosts already within the first three months of “CNN This Morning” sign that Licht hasn’t discovered the magic components. Sources beforehand informed Fox Information Digital that Licht is effectively conscious that the present wants enhancing. 

However Licht’s largest problem is filling the primetime holes left by Lemon and Cuomo.


Whereas CNN’s 8 p.m. ET anchor Anderson Cooper usually pulls double responsibility with back-to-back hours of programming, Licht nonetheless wants a everlasting repair. A short run by Jake Tapper heading into final yr’s midterms – which Tapper insists was meant to be short-term and never a “tryout” for a everlasting primetime job – was a scores bust. CNN’s Alisyn Camerota and Laura Coates have been filling in Lemon’s vacant slot within the meantime, additionally with lackluster outcomes.

Experiences in latest weeks indicated Licht was eying large names from outdoors the community to show CNN primetime round. Basketball commentator and NBA legend Charles Barkley confirmed that he is discussing internet hosting a present with Gayle King, who Licht beforehand labored with at CBS. Nonetheless, Barkley informed the New York Submit that him internet hosting a present 5 nights every week will “by no means” occur, which is able to solely extend Licht’s programming dilemma. 

Charles Barkley confirmed that he is speaking with CNN about potentially co-hosting a new show with CBS host Gayle King.

Charles Barkley confirmed that he’s talking with CNN about doubtlessly co-hosting a brand new present with CBS host Gayle King. (Getty Pictures)

It had additionally been reported that CNN was taking a look at comedians to doubtlessly be positioned in primetime, notably following the success of Fox Information’ “Gutfeld!”, which has rapidly turn out to be the most-watched late-night present on tv.

Earlier than taking the CNN gig, Licht served as government producer of “The Late Present” and helped Stephen Colbert and CBS ascend to the highest of late-night throughout the Trump period. Names that had been allegedly floated at CNN included Jon Stewart, Trevor Noah, Arsenio Corridor and Invoice Maher. 

A CNN spokesman beforehand informed Fox Information Digital, “Chris is having conversations with dozens of culturally related people from the worlds of reports, sports activities, leisure and comedy.”


Earlier this month, CNN introduced that it will be airing Maher’s “Extra time” segments on Friday nights, which had been beforehand launched on YouTube instantly following HBO’s broadcast of “Actual Time,” a property of Warner Bros. Discovery. 

Regardless of the viral buzz that was generated, CNN didn’t reap the profit from its in-house unique as viewership on Friday nights has not seen a lift. 

With all of the turmoil that has unfolded in latest months, Warner Bros. Discovery boss David Zaslav signaled he nonetheless has confidence in Licht, saying on the corporate’s fourth-quarter earnings name Thursday, “Chris Licht and the workforce are centered on constructing an asset for the long run throughout cable and digital that’s worthy of that nice international model… I imagine we’re on the appropriate path.”