When Chris Licht took over as CNN’s new president, he boldly announced that the network would be moving away from the “extremism” seen on other cable news shows in a bid to become a “beacon” for good journalism. Now, as dramatic shakeups continue to rumble through the bowels of the historically liberal network, analysts are suggesting that CNN hosts are suddenly criticizing President Joe Biden to preserve their jobs because Licht is “pulling to the political right.”
When CNN’s morning show anchor Brianna Keilar slammed Biden last week for flanking himself with U.S. Marines against a blood-red backdrop while he demonized half the nation, White House staffers were angered, according to The Hill.
Keilar’s tone on Twitter — one frequently used over the years to criticize former President Donald Trump — fired up the rumor mill once again.
“Whatever you think of this speech the military is supposed to be apolitical,” she tweeted. “Positioning Marines in uniform behind President Biden for a political speech flies in the face of that. It’s wrong when Democrats do it. It’s wrong when Republicans do it.”
Whatever you think of this speech the military is supposed to be apolitical. Positioning Marines in uniform behind President Biden for a political speech flies in the face of that. It’s wrong when Democrats do it. It’s wrong when Republicans do it.
— Brianna Keilar (@brikeilarcnn) September 2, 2022
The following day, White House reporter John Harwood — another Trump critic — was given his walking papers.
He is another casualty of CNN’s new direction,
Last month, conservatives cheered as Brian Stelter’s struggling Sunday show, “Reliable Sources,” was canceled along with its widely disliked host whose ludicrous attacks on Trump have repeatedly been debunked.
BREAKING: Brian Stelter let go from CNN. Story to follow… pic.twitter.com/vdgFQmWyTu
— American Wire News (@americanwire_) August 18, 2022
Rather than see the changes as an effort by Licht to restore some semblance of integrity to his stable of so-called journalists, the liberal media watchdog group Media Matters sees the moves as a plot to align the network with Fox News.
“The message coming out … is that this is part of a deliberate effort to get rid of people at CNN who are seen as too critical of Donald Trump and Fox News,” said Media Matters for America senior fellow Matthew Gertz.
Gertz pointed to “some very high-profile cases of CNN staffers making a sort of public display of criticizing President Joe Biden,” suggesting that Keilar and anyone else who isn’t fawning over Biden’s every fumble were simply trying to save their jobs.
According to a CNN spokesperson, Gertz and those like him are way off base.
“CNN is not shifting from left to right or pursuing a centrist position,” the spokesperson told The Hill. “We are entirely focused on our core strength and mission — objective journalism, presented in a fair and compelling way. We will continue to acknowledge different worldviews and experiences.”
“We will always stand up for democracy and call out lies — regardless of their origin,” CNN stated. “That is not centrism, that is journalism.”
But that isn’t enough to stop the gossip.
Former network television exec and Hill contributor John Ferullo has heard his share of scuttlebutt.
“There isn’t a bigger, faster rumor gossip machine than a newsroom,” he said. “In a vacuum, that rumor machine goes in overdrive, so it has to be addressed.”
Much of the gossip appears to stem from CNN’s recent merger with Discovery and billionaire media mogal John Malone, who owns a lot of Discovery shares. Prior to the purchase, Malone stated that he “would like to see CNN evolve back to the kind of journalism that it started with, and actually have journalists, which would be unique and refreshing.”
— August (@SaftyInNumbers) September 9, 2022
Malone told The New York Times that his comment has “nothing to do with” Stelter’s cancellation, but some aren’t so sure.
“A lot of people on the outside are seeing this as some sort of gambit for audience and viewership,” said CNN’s former assignment editor Michael J. Socolow. “There are much bigger economic and regulatory benefits for the political positioning than any kind of viewership gains.”
Regular viewers of CNN sent the hashtag #BoycottCNN trending on Twitter last week upon learning that Harwood was out.
Former President Barack Obama’s finance chair Jon Cooper declared, “I decided to #BoycottCNN as soon as the network began its shift to the right. It was a tough decision, since I’ve been a devout @CNN viewer since I was in my 20s. If I wanted to watch right-wing propaganda, I’d watch Fox. So for now, it’s ONLY @MSNBC for me.”
If I wanted to watch right-wing propaganda, I’d watch Fox. So for now, it’s ONLY @MSNBC for me.
— Jon Cooper (@joncoopertweets) August 29, 2022
According to Tom Jones of the Poynter Institute, the gossip would stop if Licht would simply explain what CNN is doing.
“While Twitter is not necessarily real life, one can’t help but notice that CNN viewers are growing frustrated with some of these recent developments,” he wrote. “It would behoove Licht to get out ahead of this and explain what CNN is doing and where it is going.”
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