CNN CEO Chris Licht wasn’t prepared for ‘absolute scrutiny’


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CNN chairman and CEO Chris Licht said he wasn’t prepared for the “absolute level of scrutiny” that the media has focused on his tenure since he took the helm a year ago — and admitted it has felt like “a smack in the face.”

“When you take a job like this you know you are giving of yourself and this is all you’re going to do in the foreseeable future,” Licht said Thursday, during a talk at the Paley Center for Media in Midtown.

“The one part of the job that has proven itself to be a little bit more of a smack in the face [more] than I probably would have prepared myself for is just the absolute level of scrutiny,” he continued.

The CEO, who was interviewed by CNN correspondent and anchor Pamela Brown, added that while he “knew what he was getting himself into,” he didn’t realize just how tough it would be until he was in the job.

Licht took the high-stakes job to try to reinvigorate the ratings-challenged, third-place network, last May, but so far he hasn’t made much of a dent.

The exec has tried to balance the tone of the network by bringing on more Republican voices on air, as well as covering issues without partisan commentary from hosts.

For instance, when Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court last June, Licht made sure CNN anchors and correspondents checked their tone, as to not say “this is a horrible day.”

Chris Licht said he wasn’t prepared for the intense scrutiny he would receive when he took the job as CNN CEO.
Getty Images for CNN

Instead, Licht internally told staffers to avoid giving their opinions so that people who supported ending the Consitiutional right to abortion felt “seen” by the notoriously left-leaning network.

Licht has also tried to relaunch CNN’s morning show with a fresh anchor lineup that includes Don Lemon, Kaitlan Collins and Poppy Harlow, but so far, the program has flopped in the ratings and spawned controversy.

“Right now, we need to be a little patient with the ratings,” Licht said, when asked how he is measuring success.

During his year-long tenure, Licht has not been able to lift the embattled news network’s ratings.
Getty Images for Warner Bros. Discovery

Brown also asked how the CEO intends to reinvent primetime and what the status is of a potential Gayle King- Charles Barkley hosted show at 9 pm.

“I am not going to touch that,” Licht said, instead citing recent comments from King on the matter.

“Wouldn’t that be a fun show to watch?,” before turning to his broader mission for CNN. “I want to try new things. I want to not be cable news. I want to be news on cable… I want to try different things.”

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