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Warner Bros. Discovery Upfront 2023

Chris Licht, now-former Chairman and CEO, CNN Worldwide, speaks onstage during the Warner Bros. Discovery Upfront 2023 at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on May 17, 2023, in New York City. | Source: Kevin Mazur / Getty

Right-wing America talks about DEI as if it stands for “Death to European Interlopers” and not “diversity, equity and inclusion.” They don’t seem to see any irony in assuming any and all diversity initiatives are inherently anti-white while also assuming that if Black people (especially black women) and people of color are being hired over white people (especially white men) then DEI must be the reason. One could almost determine that white conservatives are just racists who delude themselves into believing only white men achieve high positions based on merit alone while everyone else is rising up the woke ladder.

Right-wing America has also taken much delight in the recent woes of the news network they love to hate, CNN. On Wednesday, the network’s parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, announced that CNN’s CEO had been let go after running the network for just over a year. But what the anti-DEI acolytes will likely never acknowledge is that a mediocre white man might have become the CEO of one of America’s most prominent media outlets while not being nearly the best person for the job.

Chris Licht, by the accounts of his own staff and news personalities, was mediocre during his time as CNN’s CEO. According to CNBC, “Licht’s departure came as he faced a rebellion among CNN’s talent and staff,” who have said that his tenure was “riddled with programming missteps and rock-bottom ratings.”

To be fair, when announcing Licht’s departure from the network in a memo to CNN’s staff, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav was far more polite than that.

“I have known Chris for many years and have enormous respect for him, personally and professionally. This job was never going to be easy, especially at a time of great disruption and transformation, and Chris poured his heart and soul into it,” Zaslav wrote. “Unfortunately, things did not work out the way we had hoped – and ultimately that’s on me. I take responsibility.”

Still, if Zaslav truly had respected Licht professionally, he might be on a short list of people who did, especially after he green-lit a town hall with former president and OG stop-the-steal-and-the-woke propagandist Donald Trump.

From CNBC:

Licht drew heated criticism in recent weeks after the network hosted a town hall with Donald Trump that was packed with scores of the former president’s cheering fans. While the event drew 3.3 million viewers, CNN’s ratings plummeted afterward. Two days after the town hall, CNN’s prime-time viewership came in below right-wing outlet Newsmax, a much smaller network.

But it was an unflattering 15,000-word profile of Licht in The Atlantic – titled “Inside the Meltdown at CNN” – that might have sealed his fate. He apologized to staffers Monday morning, but top brass at CNN’s parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, including CEO David Zaslav, weren’t happy with the article and the aftermath.

The move comes soon after Leavy, a key Zaslav ally, was named the network’s new chief operating officer. Leavy was tasked with taking over marketing, public relations, advertising sales, facilities and other logistics.

The move was intended to allow Licht to focus more on programming. Licht helped launch MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” as its executive producer in 2007 and later became executive producer and showrunner of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on CBS.


There’s a reason why Fox News would never host a critical race theory appreciation special or a Black Lives Matter protest that remained peaceful. (*gestures widely toward the vast majority of them*) Fox’s viewers don’t want to see that kind of programming. Similarly, your average CNN viewer is probably not looking to see a Trump rally disguised as a town-all forum. Sure, the event drew more than 3 million viewers because people will always watch a train wreck, but it’s not terribly surprising that the network alienated its regular viewers by giving a platform to Trump and his MAGA cult.

But, seriously—Newsmax? You mean to tell me Licht’s decision-making while in a merit-based position of leadership at CNN was so mediocre that the network’s prime-time ratings dipped below that of the Great Value discount version of Fox News?

Also, why does a COO being named to take on leadership responsibilities at CNN to “allow Licht to focus on programming” feel like an attempt to allow a mediocre white man to continue failing up—especially since Licht got the ax shortly after?

It’s just really hard not to believe that if Licht were, say, a Black woman, a lot of people would have been calling him a DEI hire. 

Just sayin’.


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