Anderson Cooper didn’t get Chris Licht’s efforts to remake CNN: ‘Not sure what the point of it all was’
CNN anchor Anderson Cooper said he still didn’t understand “what the point” of former CEO Chris Licht’s vision was for the network in a new interview.
The left-leaning Cooper, who hosts a primetime show on the struggling network, is on his third boss in less than two years after Mark Thompson was tapped for the job last month. In an interview with the New York Times’ David Marchese, Cooper was asked about Licht’s analysis that CNN had essentially alienated half the country with its resistance-style coverage of the Trump administration under previous boss Jeff Zucker.
“I don’t know what Chris Licht’s analysis was. I don’t have much confidence that I actually know what he was thinking,” Cooper said.
“That’s a problem, right?” Marchese asked.
“Yeah, that’s a problem. I mean, I read things in the paper, but I’m not sure what the point of it all was,” Cooper said.
While Zucker was beloved by many accounts within CNN for his close relationships with staffers both on and behind the camera, as well as his no-holds-barred antagonism toward former President Trump, Licht’s approach and criticism of its recent lurch into editorializing won him few friends at the network. He also took heat for being more isolated than Zucker.
“So at no point did anybody communicate ‘this is what we’re doing now’ to one of the most high-profile anchors at CNN?” Marchese asked Cooper.
“I met with Chris and had a general sense of what the concern was,” Cooper said. “I don’t want to be unfair. I understood what the idea and the vision was… My sense from Chris was there was not a lot we needed to hash out because I’m not an opinion host… With Chris, I had a meeting with him when he first started and touched base from time to time, but we didn’t have a ton of communications.”
Licht was only at CNN for 13 months, but they were eventful; he axed the short-lived streaming service CNN+, pushed out Brian Stelter, John Harwood and Jeffrey Toobin, made overtures to disaffected Republicans to appear on the network, launched a morning show centered around Don Lemon, and later fired Lemon after a spate of on-air embarrassments.
But his final major action was perhaps the one that doomed him; hosting Trump for a May town hall in front of a raucous GOP audience in New Hampshire, in what he viewed as a potential vindication of his leadership at CNN. Moderator Kaitlan Collins tried to counter various Trump claims about January 6, the 2020 election and other issues in real time, but Trump continually brushed her off to roaring laughter and cheers from the crowd, at one point calling her “nasty.”
Liberals were horrified and furious with Licht for the spectacle. The following night, Cooper memorably scolded both his own audience and Trump’s supporters in an on-air editorial, defending CNN giving a platform to the GOP frontrunner while condemning what he called his “disturbing” lies and rhetoric.
“The man you were so disturbed to see and hear from last night, that man is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president,” Cooper said. “That man you were so upset to hear from last night, he may be President of the United States in less than two years. And that audience that upset you? That’s a sampling of about half the country. They are your family members, your neighbors, and they are voting. And many said they’re voting for him.”
Asked about the town hall, Cooper demurred, saying there were legitimate questions about how to cover Trump while noting he had defended it from the perspective of hearing from someone who could very well be in the White House in two years. But he said now he wasn’t sure if he’d welcome Trump, who he’s interviewed before, onto his program.
“I don’t know at this point. I’m not sure. I personally would not have chosen to do a town hall,” he said.
Mark Thompson, formerly of the BBC and New York Times, was named the new CEO of CNN last week. Licht was fired in June after losing the newsroom completely over the Trump town hall debacle and a poorly received Atlantic profile that depicted him as self-obsessed and aloof.
“He got cancel cultured because he wanted to level the ideological playing field,” a CNN insider told Fox News Digital at the time of Licht’s firing, while another said his departure was “inevitable.”
Licht declined to comment.
Fox News’ Brian Flood and Joseph Wulfsohn contributed to this report.
For more Culture, Media, Education, Opinion, and channel coverage, visit foxnews.com/media