CNN CEO Chris Licht was eviscerated by his own media reporter on Monday night when CNN’s Oliver Darcy penned a scathing newsletter claiming his boss has “lost the room.”
Darcy’s takedown of his boss came less than a month after CNN’s in-house media scribe was left “visibly shaken” after being reprimanded by Licht over harsh coverage of the network. But it doesn’t appear that the warning changed Darcy’s strategy of publicly undermining his own boss.
Licht has been the subject of widespread criticism from CNN staffers who are peeved for a variety of reasons, with an unflattering Atlantic profile serving as the impetus for a barrage of anti-Licht press. Licht apologized to staffers on Monday, admitting he has become a distraction and promising to win over internal critics. Darcy, who took over the “Reliable Sources” newsletter after Licht fired Brian Stelter last year, has emerged among his most outspoken critics.
“Whether Licht can actually win over his army of journalists, however, is far from certain — especially now that he is attempting to reset relations more than a year into his tenure, having alienated much of the employee base and squandered the good will he had when he took helm of the network,” Darcy wrote.
“In the wake of The Atlantic’s explosive story, I’ve spoken with dozens of staffers across the company. There are a wide range of emotions coursing through the halls of CNN. Some staffers are frustrated. Others are angry. Many are sad about the awful state of affairs that has taken hold of an organization they love,” Darcy continued. “There is one near-universal sentiment, however, that has been communicated to me: Licht has lost the room.”
Darcy also wrote that Licht’s apology “struck the right tone” with many staffers, but others simply want new leadership for CNN.
“Licht, notably, did not apologize for having disparaged CNN’s previous journalism, an omission in his remarks that did not go unnoticed by staffers, particularly the network’s health unit which has been infuriated by the attacks he leveled against the outlet’s Covid-19 coverage. And, overall, the comments did little to move the needle. ‘Too little, too late,’ more than one employee said, summarizing the widespread attitude from staffers that I spoke with,” Darcy wrote.
“In the eyes of so many at CNN, there isn’t anything Licht can do at this point to win over their support. They’ve hit the wall with him,” Darcy continued. “As one anchor texted me, in reference to Licht’s announcement on Monday that he will relocate his office to a newsroom floor at Hudson Yards: ‘We don’t want his office relocated to the 18th floor, we want it relocated out of the building.’”
Darcy then provided links to pieces critical of CNN or Licht from a variety of outlets including The Hollywood Reporter, Los Angeles Times, Vanity Fair, Daily Beast, New York magazine, Washington Post and a New York Times report that said CNN “faces a crisis.”
CNN’s parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, did not immediately respond to a series of questions including if Licht’s job is safe and, if so, how he is expected to co-exist with Darcy.
Darcy did not respond to a text asking if he’s willing to co-exist with Licht.
Licht did not respond, either.
“Oliver Darcy is a valued member of the newsroom. CNN covers itself as part of its media coverage,” a CNN spokesperson said when asked if it condones Darcy’s criticism of the boss.
Last month, Darcy blasted his own employer following the network’s now-infamous Trump town hall. “It’s hard to see how America was served by the spectacle of lies that aired on CNN Wednesday evening,” Darcy wrote.
Darcy was then summoned for a meeting with Licht and other top CNN executives, who reprimanded him for “emotional” coverage. But Darcy continued to take public jabs at his boss, even using a staring-eyes emoji to highlight an article about CNN’s poor primetime viewership.
Semafor reported last month that Darcy had “wondered to colleagues whether he should resign or if he will be fired by the network” after he was scolded by Licht. At the time, a spokesperson for CNN told Fox News Digital “Oliver does not intend to resign.”
Licht’s shrinking inner circle probably wishes Darcy did walk away, though.
Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.