Home NEWS ENTERTAINMENT CNN Staff ‘Celebrating’ Ouster of Boss Chris Licht: ‘Bad Move After Bad Move’

CNN Staff ‘Celebrating’ Ouster of Boss Chris Licht: ‘Bad Move After Bad Move’

Hours after Chris Licht was ousted as CEO and chairman of CNN, office morale has already seen improvement.

A former CNN employee tells PEOPLE that staffers are “celebrating in the newsrooms right now.”

“They say his office being on the high floor, the private planes and the Trump Town Hall were bad move after bad move,” the source says.

On Wednesday morning, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav sent an internal memo to CNN employees announcing Licht’s departure, a move that many saw coming after a slew of missteps damaged company morale and tanked the network’s viewership.

“[Licht’s] job was never going to be easy, especially at a time of great disruption and transformation, and Chris poured his heart and soul into it,” Zaslav wrote in the memo, which was obtained by PEOPLE. “He has a deep love for journalism and this business and that has been evident throughout his tenure.”

“Unfortunately, things did not work out the way we had hoped – and ultimately that’s on me,” Zaslav continued. “I take responsibility. Needless to say, we appreciate Chris’ efforts and dedication and wish him all the best.”

Zaslav explained that an acting leadership team will guide CNN through its transition while executives conduct “a wide search, internally and externally, for a new leader.”
PEOPLE’s source says that in the wake of Licht’s departure, “People are wishing that [previous CNN CEO] Jeff Zucker would come back,” also clarifying that staff “really respect Amy Entelis, the interim leader.”

The news of Licht’s ousting comes days after a scathing profile of Licht dropped in The Atlantic and reportedly led employees to lose faith in his leadership style and abilities.

Journalist Tim Alberta spent months speaking with Licht for the Atlantic profile, which was published last Friday and painted Licht as an executive who is out of touch with his employees, many of whom reacted to the profile with disappointment.

“The Atlantic piece is what was the nail in the coffin,” the source tells PEOPLE.

Licht’s ousting also comes nearly one month after a disastrous town hall with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump saw the former president repeatedly bulldoze moderator Kaitlan Collins and make largely unchecked claims on live television.

Trump reiterated lies that the 2020 elections were “rigged” and called the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the state capitol “a beautiful day.” He also lobbed insults at writer E. Jean Carroll, who won her lawsuit against him the day before for sexual abuse and defamation, calling her a “wack job.”

He went on to say he “did not know” Carroll, and suggested that her claims that he forced her against a dressing room and assaulted her at Bergdorf Goodman 27 years ago were false and referred to the alleged assault as “hanky-panky.”

Following the town hall, CNN received criticism online from the public, news reporters and former TV news executives, and phrases like BoycottCNN, DoneWithCNN and ByeCNN trended all night after the broadcast, per The Washington Post. The network also saw a quick and dramatic dip in ratings, presumably in response.

At a staff meeting after the town hall, Licht reportedly defended the broadcast to staff members, even promoting Collins to a primetime slot the following week.

“I am aware that there have been people with opinions [and] backlash, and that is absolutely expected,” Licht said of the town hall, according to The Washington Post. “And I’ll say this as clearly as I possibly can: You do not have to like the former president’s answers, but you can’t say we didn’t get them.”

“… America was served very well by what we did last night,” he added. “People woke up and they know what the stakes are in this election in a way they didn’t the day before.”

Licht took over running the network in February 2022 after Zucker abruptly resigned. Since then, CNN host Brian Stelter exited the network following the cancellation of his morning show Reliable Sources, and host John Hardwood left amid several changes at the network. Don Lemon was also fired from the network in April.

On his first day on the job, Licht sent out a memo to CNN staff saying that “CNN must be a vital, relevant, and respected part of our culture.”

“Sadly, too many people have lost trust in the news media,” Licht wrote.

“I think we can be a beacon in regaining that trust by being an organization that exemplifies the best characteristics of journalism: fearlessly speaking truth to power, challenging the status quo, questioning ‘group-think’ and educating viewers and readers with straightforward facts and insightful commentary, while always being respectful of differing viewpoints,” he continued.


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