Discover confirmed Monday that CBS executive and Late Show showrunner Chris Licht will be CNN's next chairman and chief executive, effective May 1. He will replace Jeff Zucker, who left abruptly on Feb. 2 after failing to disclose a romantic relationship with another top executive, Allison Gollust, who later resigned herself. Stephen Colbert wistfully celebrated Licht's imminent departure on Monday night's Late Show.
"Our own Chris Licht, right over there at that podium, is leaving this show to take over CNN," Colbert said. "I trained the next president of CNN," so "I believe, legally, CNN now stands for the Colbert News Network." He joked about some things the staff will miss about having Licht stage right, adding, "I, personally, will miss the frantic, flailing hand gestures when I go 38 minutes with Neil deGrasse Tyson or even mention The Lord of the Rings."
"But here's the thing: There's bosses, and then there are leaders," Colbert said to Licht. "Bosses tell you what to do. Leaders work as hard as you do to do what needs to be done. And that's what you did." Licht came to The Late Show from a news background — he was the founding executive producer of MSNBC's Morning Joe and helped launch CBS This Morning, his last job before moving to The Late Show and elevating it to the top of the late-night ratings. When he interviewed Licht six years ago, Colbert said, he had the right credentials but "I didn't know whether I'd like him. But six years later, I love you." He had an early farewell surprise for Licht, and a hug.
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Licht, 50, hopes to steer CNN back to its hard-news roots from the more opinion-heavy direction Zucker favored, The Washington Post reports. "There's a difference between standing up for yourself," he reportedly told a friend recently, "and becoming part of the resistance." Licht will take over not long after CNN's new streaming service, CNN Plus, launches, and one of his first big challenges will be to fill the 9 p.m. spot vacated by Chris Cuomo's forced departure. "That's a huge decision and will say a lot," television agent and CNN veteran Josh Gropper told the Post.
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