CNN CEO Chris Licht steps down after damaging Atlantic profile

Chris Licht
(Image credit: Mike Coppola / Getty Images for CNN)

CNN CEO Chris Licht's controversial tenure has come to an end.

Licht has stepped down as CEO and chairman of CNN, a job he held for just over a year, effective immediately, Warner Bros. Discovery confirmed. The news was first reported by Puck.

"I have great respect for Chris, personally and professionally," Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said in a press release. "The job of leading CNN was never going to be easy, especially at a time of huge disruption and transformation, and he has poured his heart and soul into it."

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Licht's departure came days after a damaging profile of him in The Atlantic that described a "meltdown" at the network. The piece detailed how Licht was seeking to court Republican viewers but had "lost the confidence of his own newsroom." For one, he faced criticism for a CNN town hall with former President Donald Trump, during which Trump repeated his false claims about the 2020 election. Ratings have also been in decline.

The "blistering" profile "called into serious question Licht's judgment, his ability to lead the network's staff, and his overall professional capabilities as CNN's top executive," CNN's own media reporter Oliver Darcy wrote. Licht reportedly apologized in an editorial meeting on Monday, promising to "fight like hell" to win the newsroom's trust back. But on Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported top anchors like Jake Tapper, Erin Burnett and Anderson Cooper have "voiced their concerns about Licht's leadership."

Warner Bros. Discovery said the company will initiate a search for Licht's replacement but has a "strong interim leadership team" in place. According to media reporter Brian Stelter, who left CNN during Licht's tenure, Zaslav said in an editorial call "it didn't work out" with Licht, and he takes "full responsibility."

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.