After Chris Licht was ousted as CEO of CNN after barely a year on the job, his tumultuous tenure left staff exhausted and demoralized. Primetime anchor Anderson Cooper opened up about Licht’s era at the network, including the ex-chairman’s widely maligned decision to host a town hall event with Donald Trump last spring, during an interview with the New York Times Magazine published Tuesday.
When asked if he agreed with Licht’s attempt to realign CNN to appeal to a new “cohort of viewers,” Cooper said, “I don’t know what Chris Licht’s analysis was. I don’t have much confidence that I actually know what he was thinking.”
He added, “I read things in the paper, but I’m not sure what the point of it all was.”
“I met with Chris and had a general sense of what the concern was,” Cooper continued. “I don’t want to be unfair. I understood what the idea and the vision was.” The anchor emphasized that while he wants the network to “to do well and be respected,” he tries to “worry about stuff I actually have my hands on. For me, it’s the show that I work on.”
When probed on the controversial town hall with Trump in May, Cooper replied, “I defended the concept of hearing from the person who’s the front-runner in the Republican Party. I still believe that person can be challenged in an interview.”
He added that he “personally would not have chosen to do a town hall” for the former president’s return to the network. “The town hall format is a specific format that CNN has done effectively for a lot of candidates. I don’t think the first time Donald Trump came back on CNN — I wouldn’t have done a town hall, and if he’d said no, I would have said fine, then he’s not on. But that’s not my choice. I wasn’t involved.”
Insiders previously described the evening to Rolling Stone as everything from “appalling” to a “fucking disgrace” during which the former president mocked moderator Kaitlan Collins and used the platform to push dangerous lies to millions of viewers.
Last week, CNN announced that Mark Thompson, the former chief executive of the New York Times and director-general of the BBC, would take the network’s reigns as its new CEO and editor-in-chief.