Chris Licht’s run as CNN Worldwide CEO came to a head on May 10. The network hosted a town hall with former President Donald Trump, leading to industry criticism and internal pushback.
Nearly a month after the town hall, The Atlantic published an eye-opening profile of Licht and his tenure.
Atlantic’s Tim Alberta wrote that CNN employees speculated that the network tried to placate the former president, alleging there was a request to alter a chyron ahead of the town hall.
“At one point during the pregame show, when the words ‘sexual assault’ appeared on the CNN chyron, one of Licht’s lieutenants phoned the control room,” according to Alberta. “His instructions stunned everyone who overheard them: The chyron needed to come down immediately.”
On May 9, a jury found Trump liable for sexually abusing and defaming longtime Elle columnist E. Jean Carroll awarding her $5 million. The jury did not find Trump liable for rape; the former president has denied the allegations.
CNN did not immediately respond to a request for comment about this specific allegation.
Ahead of the town hall, critics were worried about the network hosting a former president who had just been found liable for sexual abuse the day prior. The town hall was seen as a ploy to boost flagging ratings and an attempt to bring GOP viewers back into the fold of the network after CNN served as Trump’s punching bag during his term.
The event, hosted by rising CNN star Kaitlan Collins, played out as critics expected: Trump steamrolled the network repeating falsehoods at a faster cadence than could be fact-checked, despite Collins’ best efforts. He was also allowed by the network to appear before what Licht called an “extra Trumpy” audience, which laughed when Trump mocked Carroll and her allegations.
And while the ratings spiked for the town hall (more than 3 million tuned in) the network’s numbers have since receded with the network placing below right-wing network Newsmax several times in May.
In the month since, the company has also faced criticism from its own reporters including media writer Oliver Darcy and CNN’s chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour.