CNN fires CEO Chris Licht after a pretty bad, Trump-friendly year

CNN announced today that 51-year-old CEO Chris Licht — who last year told his staff not to use the term "Big Lie" to describe Donald Trump's "Big Lie" — was fired. His efforts to "fix" the network by making news more "objective" — as in playing softball with Donald Trump and, in general, leaning more right — did not pay off.

"I have great respect for Chris, personally and professionally," Warner Bros. Discovery Chief said in a statement. "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 job at CNN lasted just 16 months.

From NBC News:

When Licht took over CNN, he sought to differentiate himself from Zucker, who had publicly clashed with former President Donald Trump. Licht, reportedly following a mandate from Zaslav, attempted to move the news brand to the political center and make it more palatable to both conservative viewers and GOP newsmakers.

He also rolled out a new morning program co-anchored by Don Lemon, who was fired in April after Variety published an article detailing allegations that he had mistreated female colleagues. Lemon, who also faced backlash for on-air comments suggesting GOP presidential contender Nikki Haley was not "in her prime" because she is in her 50s, denied the allegations. …

He was harshly criticized by pundits for hosting a live town hall event with Trump on May 10. In response, commentators faulted Licht for having given the Republican front-runner a platform to make baseless claims about 2020 voter fraud and other issues in front of a crowd of staunch Republicans. The New York Times headline: "Trump's Falsehoods and Bluster Overtake CNN Town Hall."

The negative assessments reached a fever pitch on Friday after The Atlantic published a 15,000-word article titled "Inside the Meltdown at CNN." Tim Alberta, a reporter who had shadowed Licht for months (including during a personal training session), detailed the executive's fixation on his own press coverage and quoted him mocking CNN journalists' coverage of the pandemic. …

The Atlantic article circulated widely on social media in the days that followed, and high-profile media observers — including Brian Stelter, a former CNN journalist who was fired last year — publicly speculated that Licht might not be long for the job.