Updated Jun 6, 2023, 8:23am EDT

CNN’s PR team will no longer report to Chris Licht

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Semafor

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The Scoop

One of incoming CNN chief operating officer David Leavy’s first moves will be to shore up the network’s public relations operation — which he’s taking over from CEO Chris Licht, according to two CNN staffers with knowledge of the decision.

The decision to put the PR team in Leavy’s hands comes in the shadow of a damning story in The Atlantic on Friday of CNN CEO Chris Licht’s tumultuous first year on the job.

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Max’s view

CNN gave The Atlantic substantial access to Licht over the course of a year, allowing reporter Tim Alberta to trail the CNN CEO to workout classes, meetings, and a recent town hall with former President Donald Trump.

But if the plan was to humanize Licht, it backfired, instead painting a picture of an embattled and isolated chief executive bogged down by poor ratings and multiple crises.

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Know More

During a Monday morning call with staffers, Licht acknowledged that The Atlantic story had caused issues for the network, calling the experience “tremendously humbling” and saying he did not recognize himself in the profile


“I fully recognize that this news cycle and my role in it have overshadowed the incredible week of reporting we just had and distracted from the work of every single journalist in this organization,” he said.

Behind the scenes, the CNN boss has also attempted to contain the fallout from the profile. Licht spoke at length to the Atlantic about his disagreements with the way that CNN covered the Covid-19 pandemic. As Semafor reported on Sunday, this criticism frustrated many CNN staffers, including many on the health team, which covered the pandemic extensively for years. Two people with knowledge of the call told Semafor that after the profile was published, Licht reached out to an executive producer on the health team to explain his critical comments about CNN’s coverage of the pandemic.

Leavy, the former chief corporate affairs officer for CNN’s parent company Warner Bros Discovery, did not respond to a request for comment.

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  • Former Chairman Jeff Zucker is unimpressed with the new regime, and looking for his next deal, the New York Times reported Sunday.
  • “I should not be in the news unless it’s taking arrows for you. Your work is what should be written about,” Licht told his staff Monday.