CNN’s new boss Chris Licht is monitoring anchors to ensure their tone follows the network’s plan to become less partisan — and personalities such as Brian Stetler and Jim Acosta could be forced out, according to a report.
Licht, who is leading a push toward more fact-driven coverage, is said to be reviewing whether particular anchors and CNN shows can adhere to the shift.
Anchors who are unable to “adjust to a less partisan tone and strategy” could be removed from their posts, Axios reported, citing three sources familiar with the matter.
The report did not mention whether any specific CNN anchors were under particular scrutiny — though it did note that Acosta and Stelter were among the personalities whose left-leaning viewpoints have drawn the ire of conservatives.
Acosta and Stelter engaged in frequent criticism of and clashes with Republicans during former President Donald Trump’s time in office.
Licht reportedly wants CNN’s on-air personalities to focus on conducting straightforward interviews and for producers to avoid “noise” in their booking decisions. The CNN boss is also purportedly seeking to ensure that personality-driven shows that air on the primetime block aren’t damaging the network’s new ethos.
A CNN spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.
Licht, who replaced former CNN president Jeff Zucker following his abrupt resignation earlier this year for not disclosing a relationship with a colleague, is tasked with leading an overhaul of the left-leaning network’s operations after the merger with new parent company Warner Bros. Discovery.
CNN anchor Chris Cuomo was fired late last year in the wake of revelations he secretly aided the defense of his older brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, from sexual harassment allegations. He was the network’s top-rated primetime host before being dumped.
The once-proud network founded by Ted Turner has continuously lagged behind Fox News in the primetime ratings war and has even fallen behind MSNBC. CNN drew 660,000 total viewers in primetime this past May, while Fox pulled in 2.27 million and MSNBC had 1.02 million, according to ratings company Nielsen.
Last month, Licht sent a memo to staffers declaring that “too many people have lost trust in news media.” The message noted that CNN will focus on being “advocates for the truth” going forward.
“I think we can be a beacon in regaining that trust by being an organization that exemplifies the best characteristics of journalism: fearlessly speaking truth to power, challenging the status quo, questioning ‘group-think,’ and educating viewers and readers with straightforward facts and insightful commentary, while always being respectful of differing viewpoints,” Licht wrote.
Licht has also told CNN employees to cut down on the network’s use of “breaking news” banners during live coverage — a practice that gained prevalence under Zucker.
“We are truth-tellers, focused on informing, not alarming our viewers,” Licht said in a memo, which was also obtained by Axios.
The overhaul under Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav’s watch included the surprise decision to shutter the CNN+ streaming service just one month after it launched. The move came after the fledging streamer endured a rough launch and failed to draw many viewers.
“We will clearly take swift and decisive actions on certain items, as you saw on CNN+ last week,” Zaslav told investors during a recent earnings call.