The new top executive at CNN credits President Joe Biden with saving his life more than a decade ago after he suffered a brain aneurysm.

Chris Licht, who was tapped to succeed Jeff Zucker as CNN’s boss earlier this year, recounted the dramatic episode in his 2011 memoir, “What I Learned When I Almost Died: How a Maniac TV Producer Put Down His Blackberry and Started to Live His Life.”

The book describes Licht, who went on to become executive producer for Stephen Colbert’s late-night show on CBS before landing the top job at CNN, as a “thirty-eight-year-old control freak who thrived in the high-octane world of media” and who “spent years sacrificing relationships with family and friends in the fiercely driven pursuit of his career.”

At the time, Licht was executive producer of MSNBC’s daily morning talk show “Morning Joe” co-hosted by former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough and journalist Mika Brzezinski.

In 2010, Licht was rushed to George Washington University hospital in Washington, DC. Licht writes in his memoir, which was cited by Politico, that his life “moved closer to the abyss’ edge.”

Biden, who was vice president at the time, asked a top neurosurgeon to assess the severity of Licht's condition, according to a memoir.
Biden, who was vice president at the time, asked a top neurosurgeon to assess the severity of Licht’s condition, according to a memoir.
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Scarborough remembered that Biden, who at the time was vice president, had also suffered two brain aneurysms. Brzezinski, whose friendship with Biden goes back decades, rang up the former senator from Delaware and told him about Licht’s condition.

According to the memoir, Biden then called the hospital that was treating Licht and arranged to have him evaluated by a top neurosurgeon.

The neurosurgeon is then reported to have examined Licht in order to assess the severity of his condition. Shortly afterward, the doctor is said to have made treating Licht a top priority, according to the memoir.

Licht writes that Biden periodically checked in on him and his wife.

Months later, Licht attended at a party at the vice president’s residence at the US Naval Observatory in the capital. It was there that Licht credited Biden with saving his life, according to the memoir.

“He is a great and kind person, and the photo taken that day of Jenny and me being embraced by the vice president of the United States will live on in our family forever,” he said.

“My children will be able to tell their friends that in the worst moment of Daddy’s life, a busy public official put aside the important things he was doing to help.”

At the time he fell ill, Licht was working as executive producer of MSNBC's "Morning Joe," which is co-hosted by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.
At the time he fell ill, Licht was working as executive producer of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” which is co-hosted by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.

Licht’s warm feelings toward Biden could fuel the perception among conservatives that CNN is serving as a mouthpiece for his administration — even as the new boss works to dial down the partisan and opinionated commentary on the network’s airwaves.

According to the online news site Mediaite, Licht has instructed CNN producers to avoid describing former President Donald Trump’s claims of voter fraud during the 2020 election as “the big lie.”

The CNN president suggested that shows should instead refer to Trump’s disproven claims as “Trump election lie” or “election lies.”

Licht asserted that using the phrase “the big lie” essentially parroted the Democratic Party’s “branding” and hurt CNN’s objectivity when covering the topic.

Licht is also reportedly monitoring CNN’s top anchors – including personalities such as Brian Stelter and Jim Acosta – to see if they can adhere to the network’s new emphasis on less partisan coverage. Anchors who can’t adjust to CNN’s directional shift could be forced out.

In addition, Licht has directed CNN producers to dial down the network’s use of network’s use of “breaking news” banners during live coverage — a tactic that was embraced under Zucker’s watch.

“We are truth-tellers, focused on informing, not alarming our viewers,” Licht said in another memo obtained by Axios.


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