CNN anchor Don Lemon pushed back on the notion that his new boss, Chris Licht, is attempting to push the left-leaning network toward the center – dismissing reports about the shift as a “narrative” concocted by the media.

Lemon, who has frequently clashed with conservatives during his nightly broadcasts, addressed the situation during an appearance on Comedy Central’s “Hell of a Week” with host Charlamagne Tha God.

Charlamagne referenced reports and public commentary indicating that Licht, the new president of CNN, and Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav want to drive the network toward non-partisan news coverage.

“[Licht] wants to shift CNN from an opinion-based partisanship news to the political center. Will you still be able to call it like it is?” Charlamagne asked.

“Let me just say, I don’t think that’s exactly what Chris is saying,” Lemon responded during the episode airing last Friday. “I think that’s a narrative that has been placed in the medium. I think what Chris wants to do is to be able to have Republicans and Democrats and whatever your political stance is on CNN so that you can be accountable and that you can answer for it.”

“Yes, I will be able to do what I do on CNN – which is to tell the truth, which is to inform the American public and also the world, because we’re an international news organization. So if I’m not allowed to do that, then I will go on and do it somewhere else,” Lemon added.

Mediaite earlier reported on Lemon’s remarks.

Licht has openly discussed his view on what form CNN’s coverage should take in the months ahead, circulating a memo to staffers in May saying that “too many people have lost trust in the news media.”

“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 at the time.

“First and foremost, we should, and we will be advocates for the truth,” he added.

Don Lemon
Don Lemon addressed CNN’s future during an appearance alongside Charlamagne Tha God.
YouTube/Hell Of A Week

In June, Axios reported that Licht was actively monitoring CNN’s anchors to ensure their tone during broadcasts reflected the network’s updated focus on non-partisanship.

The report, which cited three sources familiar with the matter, noted that anchors who were unable to “adjust to a less partisan tone and strategy” could be forced out. Lemon’s colleagues, Brian Stelter and Jim Acosta, were singled out as those facing scrutiny.

The report added that Licht wanted CNN’s anchors and reporters to focus on straightforward interviews and for producers to avoid “noise” in their booking decisions.

When Charlamagne asked if Lemon was saying that he would be willing to walk away from CNN if he felt “stifled,” the anchor did not provide a direct response.

“I don’t mean just CNN. If people don’t allow journalists to be journalists – because again, we hold the powerful accountable,” Lemon said. “We question heads of state, the leader of the free world, kings, queens, dictators. That is what our jobs are, that is what we are supposed to do. So why would it be any different for us to do it for the people who are in charge of us?”


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Tyler Cowan