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The CEO of CNN’s parent company responded to recent criticism against his network by saying that it needs to “show both sides” in order to rebrand.
David Zaslav, the chief executive of Warner Bros. Discovery, told a media conference Thursday that CNN needs to shift from a “left-leaning” network to “show both sides of every issue” in what appears to be a response to critical comments from the political left about the channel hosting a townhall featuring former President Donald Trump.
“Our view is there’s advocacy networks on either side. We have the best journalists in the world. We need to show both sides of every issue,” Zaslav said, according to Mediaite. “CNN should be the place that people come for the best version of the truth and for journalism,” he added, echoing recent public statements made by CNN CEO Chris Licht.
Within the network, some of the CNN pundits, including media reporter Oliver Darcy, criticized the network publicly for hosting the Trump event. And now, CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour, a longtime critic of Trump, criticized the network’s management via Darcy in a report published Thursday.
“I still respectfully disagree with allowing Donald Trump to appear in that particular format,” the anchor said, according to Darcy’s article. “I would have dropped the mic at ‘nasty person,’ but then that’s me,” she said, referring to a term Trump used during the event earlier this month to describe anchor Kaitlan Collins during an exchange. She did not address why Trump may have used the term.
Kevin Tober, a news analyst at NewsBusters, told The Epoch Times last week that he believes Collins was “snarky and childish” in the event, describing her as “constantly interrupting the former president and talking back.”
But Licht reportedly told staffers during the network’s morning editorial call the next day that “covering Donald Trump is messy and tricky” and that “we’re going to do it fairly, toughly and aggressively, as Kaitlan did,” according to audio obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.
Meanwhile, Collins—who previously worked as a Daily Caller reporter—was recently promoted to CNN’s primetime lineup after the Trump town hall. She is taking the 9 p.m. timeslot that was left vacant when CNN terminated former anchor Chris Cuomo amid allegations that he assisted his brother, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, deal with a multitude of crises while he was still in office. Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing and launched a lawsuit against his former employer.
But Zaslav signaled that the apparent change at CNN may be due to advertising and suggested some brands don’t want to be associated with left-wing politics. He noted that the network has a digital audience of about 150 million.
“But advertisers are interested in CNN again. They don’t want to be part of an advocacy network,” Zaslav said Thursday, according to Variety. “We’ve had meeting after meeting and they say, ‘We’re with you.’”
CNN’s ratings in recent months have also suffered. On May 12, Anderson Cooper, the host of the 8 p.m. time slot, was on duty for a second hour at 9 p.m. He reached an audience of just 293,000, causing CNN to slip behind the conservative Newsmax network and host Chris Plante’s “Right Squad” in viewership, according to Nielsen.
On May 15, CNN averaged just 454,000 viewers in the time slot, compared to Rachel Maddow’s 2.41 million viewers on MSNBC and Sean Hannity’s 1.97 million on Fox News, Nielsen reported. The network also clocked its lowest ratings week in nine years in January.
During the Trump administration, CNN took a markedly left-wing slant under the previous CEO Jeff Zucker. A number of CNN reporters, including former CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta, became publicly confrontational towards Trump—leading the former president to often denigrate the network, Acosta, and other staffers as “fake news.”
Last year, CNN saw a management shakeup after the merger of Warner Bros. and Discovery, becoming a new company headed by Zaslav. Soon after the merger, Licht was named as CNN’s chief executive and Zucker departed.
Trump, in the interim, has weighed in multiple times on CNN and other cable news channels since the town hall. The former president has suggested that CNN place more of its focus on him and his campaign, adding that by doing so, it will boost the network’s ratings over Fox News.
Since the 2020 election, Trump has been often critical of Fox and recently criticized the network for making a poor business decision by allowing former host Tucker Carlson to leave the network. Late last month, Fox confirmed in a news release that it and Carlson would be parting ways, although few details have been provided.
A replacement show, “Fox News Tonight,” has failed to generate anywhere close to the ratings that Carlson once drew, according to Nielsen. The show, which Fox News described as temporary, has a rotating cast of hosts, including Brian Kilmeade, Lawrence Jones, Kayleigh McEnany, and now Will Cain.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.
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