CNN ousts CEO Chris Licht after a brief, tumultuous tenure
Television producer Chris Licht attends The Hollywood Reporter's annual Most Powerful People in Media cocktail reception on April 11, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — The chief executive CNN pushed out of a job on Wednesday faced mounting problems in his first year leading the struggling network: viewership and profits were declining, programming blunders were growing and the network’s journalists were losing confidence by the day.

Chris Licht’s very bad year culminated in a damning magazine profile last week, and just a few days later his tumultuous 13-month tenure was over.

Licht, 51, was informed of his ouster Wednesday morning, and it was announced to the staff at the daily editorial meeting -- the same place where Licht had said two days earlier that he would “fight like hell” to earn the trust of those around him.

The executive who hired and fired Licht — David Zaslav, the CEO of CNN parent company Warner Bros. Discovery — accepted some of the blame for the network’s turmoil over the past year, and he appointed a four-person interim leadership team. Zaslav promised CNN staff a thorough search for Licht’s replacement.

“This really caps a tumultuous year for CNN that has seen shrinking profits, programming mistakes and really low employee morale,” CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy said on his own network Wednesday.

Licht had a mandate to focus on news and try to and make CNN more palatable to both sides of the country’s political divide; Republicans had become increasingly suspicious of the network following repeated attacks by former President Donald Trump.

Earlier in the year, Licht revamped the network’s morning show, but that proved unsuccessful and led to the firing of longtime personality Don Lemon. Efforts to build a new prime-time lineup moved slowly, with Collins only recently appointed to fill at 9 p.m. hour that had been without a permanent host since Chris Cuomo was fired in December 2021.

Licht oversaw layoffs last year following Zaslav’s decision to shutter the CNN+ streaming service only weeks after it had started. There were other cutbacks: shows hosted by Lisa Ling and Stanley Tucci were axed, along with the “Reliable Sources” media program and its host, Brian Stelter.

Licht, who had produced MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” CBS’ morning news show and Stephen Colbert’s late-night show, was appointed by Zaslav just over a year ago to replace an internally popular predecessor, Jeff Zucker. Zucker was fired for not revealing a consensual relationship with a fellow CNN executive.

CNN also let go of two public relations executives on Wednesday — Kris Coratti Kelly and Matt Dornic.

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