Friday, April 19, 2024

CNN Chief Candid Interview Does Him In: Doesn’t Believe The Number of COVID Deaths, Questions Diversity, Defunding the Police


Everyone in the media is talking about one thing today besides Chuck Todd leaving “Meet the Press.”

The big story is about CNN circling the drain as its leader, Chris Licht, has hung himself out to dry in a new interview.

The story in The Atlantic by Tim Alberta is incendiary. Licht let Alberta follow him all over the place, talked to him like a pal, without a publicist around, and really helped him put a noose around his neck.

On Friday, Warner Discovery owner David Zaslav reacted to the interview by cutting half of Licht’s responsibilities and put in a WD corporate guy to run the place the get control of the situation. It’s speculated that Licht, as the Drudge Report put it, is “licht.” (He’s licked.)

The Alberta piece is endless as Licht just digs his grave. He even involves his personal trainer, who seems to be his closest confidante, to be part of the action.

And we wonder why CNN has seemed so crazy the last year, how the Trump Town Hall happened, and why no show has over 500,000 viewers anymore. Licht has driven the CNN audience to MSNBC by the droves. Jake Tapper has ruined his own reputation to stay in line with Licht’s idiotic beliefs.

On the subject of COVID:

“We don’t know how many deaths there were from COVID,” he said.”

No, really, we don’t,” Licht said. As the son of a doctor, he believed there were “legitimate conversations” to be had about the death toll attached to COVID-19. Perhaps some patients had been admitted to hospitals with life-threatening illnesses before the pandemic began, then died with a positive diagnosis, Licht postulated. “Where we run into trouble is when you say, ‘No. Come on. We’re not even having that conversation,’” he told the students. “That goes to trust as much as anything else. If you’re solid on your facts, then you should be able to entertain that discussion.”

(Really, Chris Licht? In December 2020, before there were vaccines, my father succumbed to COVID as did one of his caregivers. There were also portable mortuaries on East 76th St. behind Lenox Hill Hospital. He can’t be forgiven for that statement.)

Then there’s this:

Licht argued that the media’s blind spots owe to a lack of diversity—and not the lack of diversity that he sees newsrooms obsessing over. He wants to recruit reporters who are deeply religious and reporters who grew up on food stamps and reporters who own guns. Licht recalled a recent dustup with his own diversity, equity, and inclusion staff after making some spicy remarks at a conference. “I said, ‘A Black person, a brown person, and an Asian woman that all graduated the same year from Harvard is not diversity,’” he told me.

A minute later—after noting how sharing that anecdote could get him in trouble, and pausing to consider what he would say next—Licht added: “I think ‘Defund the police’ would’ve been covered differently if newsrooms were filled with people who had lived in public housing.” I asked him why. “They have a different relationship with their need with the police,” he said.

Licht glanced over at his assistant. “Now I’m in trouble,” he said.

Finally, on the train ride from hell, on the Acela from New York to Washington, there’s also this– and all this is before Trump ate Kaitlan Collins alive in the Town Hall.

As we cruised past Wilmington, Delaware, I asked Licht if there were people at CNN who wanted him to fail.

“I’m sure,” he said, nodding, visibly weighing what to say next. He opted to play it safe. “But it’s certainly a very small part, a very small pocket of the organization. So I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it.”

Then his voice changed. Suddenly, Licht was animated. “But I would say that for anyone who does want me to fail—what are you going for? Who would you want in this seat? You want a journalist? You want someone who has a direct line to the corporation and can make a phone call and go, ‘Hey, what the fuck?’ Do you want someone who’s done the job? Who’s done a lot of the jobs? Who understands exactly what it takes to do what I’m asking? Someone who believes that our future is based on executing great journalism? Maybe they don’t like my style or whatever, but I’m not quite sure what you’re going for—if you want me to fail.”

Licht looked out the window. “So I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it,” he repeated.

Licht isn’t finished destroying CNN. He’s got Town Halls lined up with Mike Pence, and with Nikki Haley that no CNN viewer will watch and which will just produce more lies. Licht apparently doesn’t care.

Meantime, the New York Times has a great piece today about former CNN chief Jeff Zucker, whom Licht replaced, wanting to come back and fix things.

Can it all get worse? You betcha.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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