CNN chief says ‘uninformed vitriol’ from left has been ‘stunning’

Chris Licht, who became CEO of CNN earlier this year, said he has been surprised by the “uninformed vitriol” directed at him from liberals as he attempts to shift the network’s editorial direction, in a series of interviews with The New York Times.

Licht took over the network in May, making a series of staffing and programmatic changes that have sparked buzz about Licht aiming for a more centrist slant.

“The uninformed vitriol, especially from the left, has been stunning,” Licht told the Times. “Which proves my point: so much of what passes for news is name-calling, half-truths and desperation.”

Since joining CNN, Licht shook up the network’s morning lineup by moving host Don Lemon, an outspoken critic of former President Trump, out of his prime-time slot and into “CNN This Morning” with Kaitlyn Collins and Poppy Harlow.

“They obviously like each other,” Licht told the Times of the show. “The chemistry is great. I love the collaboration. Every day, it evolves. It’s not like me giving orders. It’s so much fun.”

Licht has also let go prominent pundits like Chris Cillizza and Brian Stelter, also known for their sharp criticisms of the former president.

Many inside and outside the organization see Licht steering the network toward a more centrist direction, a characterization Licht has pushed back on.

Instead, Licht told the Times that he wanted the network to offer a “rational conversation about polarizing issues,” adding that he hoped viewers would “take what they’ve heard to the dinner table and have a discussion.”

“That’s a dream of mine,” Licht said.

But Licht has also faced the strains of a slowing economy and dwindling digital advertising, causing him to lay off some rank-and-file employees and make other major cuts.

In one of his first moves at the network, Licht nixed the network’s streaming service, CNN+, just days after its launch.

“I want CNN to be essential to society,” Licht told the Times. “If you’re essential then the revenue will follow.”

But the CEO acknowledged he might not succeed in that aspiration.

“Maybe it won’t work,” Mr. Licht said. “But I’d rather try to win this way.”

Tags Chris Licht CNN Don Lemon

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