Chris Licht is out at CNN, ending a brief and chaotic run

ATLANTA – Mr Chris Licht, the former television producer who oversaw a brief and chaotic tenure as chairman of CNN, is out at the network.

Mr Licht’s 13-month run at CNN was marked by one controversy after another, culminating in his exit earlier this week.

He got off to a bumpy start even before he officially started when he oversaw the shuttering of the pricey CNN+ streaming service at the request of its network’s new owners, who were sceptical about a stand-alone digital product.

The cuts resulted in scores of lay-offs.

Mr Licht, a former CBS executive producer who replaced Mr Jeff Zucker at CNN, has been under pressure in the days following a damning report in the Atlantic magazine.

Among other criticism, he has taken heat for the network’s decision to broadcast a May 10 town hall with former president Donald Trump, during which Trump repeated falsehoods about his 2020 election loss, said that if elected he would pardon many supporters convicted of taking part in a Jan 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, and called CNN moderator Kaitlan Collins a “nasty person”.

CNN’s ratings have been sagging, even as the company attempts to get more Republican viewers.

Mr David Zaslav, chief executive of CNN’s parent, Warner Bros. Discovery, informed staff on Wednesday morning that he met Mr Licht and that he was leaving, effective immediately.

“For a number of reasons, things didn’t work out, and that’s unfortunate,” Mr Zaslav said, according to a recording of his remarks. “It’s really unfortunate, and ultimately that’s on me. And I take full responsibility for that.”

“This job was never going to be easy, especially at a time of great disruption and transformation,” he continued. “Chris poured his heart and soul into this job. Like all of you, he was in the line of fire and he’s taken a lot of hits. We appreciate his efforts, his passion, his love for journalism, and his love for this business.”

Mr Zaslav said that an interim group of leaders – CNN veterans Amy Entelis, Virginia Moseley and Eric Sherling, as well as newly appointed chief operating officer David Leavy – would take over before a permanent leader was installed. He said the process could take several months.

Mr Licht’s departure represents a dramatic fall not long after he departed as an executive producer of Stephen Colbert’s top-rated late night show and vowed to bring a middle-of-the-road balance to CNN’s journalism. When Mr Licht took the job, he told friends it was a “calling”.

The job would prove much more difficult.