Chris Licht, CEO of CNN, phoned me today. He said that the piece I wrote about him and CNN (Tuesday’s substack of which can be found here, and a column I wrote for today’s Guardian, here) was inaccurate and that the sources on which I relied had got it wrong. I told him I’d relay his version to readers. Herewith.
He denied cancelling Brian Stelter’s Sunday show “Reliable Sources” because of political pressure from John Malone, Warner Brothers Discovery’s major shareholder. He said he “loved” Brian Stelter but that the show, which featured an hour of media coverage, “didn’t make sense on Sundays.”
He said he had asked the CNN staff to stop using the term “Big Lie” in describing Trump’s and other Republicans’ denials of the results of the 2020 election because in his view the term Big Lie has “Nazi implications.” He preferred they use the term “Trump’s election lies” because he thought that phrase more powerful.
He denied courting conservative guests for CNN, saying that in meetings on Capitol Hill he had simply told Republican lawmakers that they will be treated “with respect” if they come on CNN.
He said he took the top job at CNN because he believes in journalism. When I mentioned the particularly challenging time American journalism now finds itself -- with Trump, most of the Republican Party, and most Republican candidates for office denying that the 2020 election was won by Joe Biden, thereby on the way to undermining America democracy – he agreed that it’s challenging. He said, emphatically, that this is why he is so deeply committed to restoring CNN’s credibility as an “unbiased” source of news that “people can feel they can trust,” and “without the filter of left or right.”
When I pressed him on this -- pointing out, for example, that Arizona Republicans had just nominated election deniers for every major political office – he agreed that the time we are in is perilous. But he said he wants it to “mean something when CNN sounds the alarm.” So the network has to be selective. It can’t have a big reaction to everything. It can’t react to everything Trump says or does because “Trump creates noise.”
When I offered that, as head of CNN, he occupies a pivotal role with regard to the future of American democracy, and what the public knows and understands, he said he wants to “reach people who can be reached.”
I wish him the best of luck.
Seeing how our very democracy is on the line, I think it is definitely time to sound the alarm. And as for Brian Stelter? Sunday morning was the perfect time for me to watch his show. If timing was the issue, why didn't CNN move his show to a different time slot?? I'm not buying any of it.
If It goose-steps like a Nazi and it salutes like a Nazi and it BigLies like a Nazi...