When Chris Licht, the new CNN CEO, took over the ailing media giant, he vowed to make the network less partisan. Axios, reporting on Licht’s expected moves in early 2022, for example, claimed, “Under new chief Chris Licht, CNN will dial down the prime-time partisanship and double down on the network’s news-gathering muscle.”
That strategy of moving CNN away from the far left and toward the more reasonable mainly took the form of Licht’s CNN laying off or moving around known leftist hosts, such as Brian Stelter, who was fired, and Don Lemon, who was demoted.
Predictably, Licht has been viciously attacked by leftists for his less partisan approach to news. Speaking to the New York Times in a series of interviews that formed his response to the harsh criticism he has faced since taking over for Zucker in February 2022, Licht said, when discussing the criticism of his series of reforms:
“The uninformed vitriol, especially from the left, has been stunning. Which proves my point: so much of what passes for news is name-calling, half-truths and desperation.”
One of Licht’s harshest critics has been MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann. Attacking Licht in September of this year for demoting Don Lemon, for example, Olbermann said:
“Chris Licht (who, when we worked together at msnbc, I believed used to eat paste) has now surrounded Don Lemon with an ex-Daily Caller ‘journalist’ and somebody who last month demanded an apology from Biden to Republicans. The @CNN S–tstorm is here.”
In another tweet, Olbermann criticized CNN’s reporting on the Mar-a-Lago raid, saying, “Meanwhile under Chris Licht, @cnn television is doing some feature that would embarrass local news or a tabloid show. Not even a breaking news banner. Just @ErinBurnett looking moronic“.
Meanwhile under Chris Licht, @cnn television is doing some feature that would embarrass local news or a tabloid show. Not even a breaking news banner. Just @ErinBurnett looking moronic https://t.co/GZseAzV5bj
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) September 21, 2022
Olbermann is hardly Licht’s only critic on the hysterical left, but his tweets are representative examples of the “uninformed vitriol” to which Licht referred,
Regardless, Licht is pressing forward with his plans to reform CNN and make it watchable again, which he plans to accomplish by making it a network that focuses on “rational conversation about polarizing issues,” according to the New York Times report. Licht apparently views such an approach as a way of looking at controversial issues from different perspectives and thus appealing to a wider audience. Discussing that new perspective of CNN in the context of the gun control debate, Licht said, “No one wants a school shooting. But we have to understand the culture of people who like guns.” Adding to that, he said, “This is not vanilla, centrist or boring.“
That comment echoes what Licht said back in November. Then, speaking on the context of his vision for CNN during an interview with the Financial Times, Licht said, “one of the biggest misconceptions about my vision is that I want to be vanilla, that I want to be centrist. That is bulls**t. You have to be compelling. You have to have edge. In many cases, you take a side. Sometimes you just point out uncomfortable questions.”
His vision, therefore, is for CNN not to be apolitical or boring but rather balanced and a sounding board for different perspectives on thorny issues.