CNN's Don Lemon denies boss Chris Licht wanting less bias reporting (2022)

Don Lemon denies claims that CNN boss Chris Licht wants the news network to drop its 'opinion-mongering' reporting which could see him get the ax in favor of 'truthful news,' adding that he would welcome a return to more conservative punditry.

Lemon made the comments Friday while appearing as a guest on Comedy Central's 'Hell Of A Week,' hosted by Charlamagne tha God. The pair discussed the current political climate in America, as well as the purpose of independent journalism in a industry where more bias is present now than ever.

Towards the end of their exchange, Charlamagne evokes Licht's plan to steer CNN away from 'opinion-based partisan news to a political center.'

He then asks Lemon, 56, and who has been a member of CNN since 2006: 'Will you still be able to call it like it is?'

'Let me just say I don't think that's exactly what Chris is saying,' Lemon replied.

'I think that's a narrative that's been placed in the media. I think what Chris wants to do is to be able to have Republicans and Democrats and whatever your political stance is on CNN so that you can be accountable and that you can answer for it,' he added.

Don Lemon appeared on Charlamagne tha God's 'Hell Of A Week' show on Comedy Central to talk about both his and CNN's future

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Chris Licht took over at CNN in May and is seeking changes throughout the news network to help viewers regain trust in the media,including steering away from 'opinion-mongering' to straight news

Last week, rumors surfaced of CNN considering a revamp of its anchor lineup, with less reliance on opinionated anchors like Lemon - a vocal critic of former President Donald Trump - and Brianna Keilar, in favor of White House Chief Correspondent Kaitlan Collins, after profits were projected to fall below $1 billion, a first since 2016.

An insider source also told Radar that Licht's vision and new management style is worrisome to the network's star personalities, like Anderson Cooper and Lemon, as they were 'used to being treated like stars, not staff.'

The pair were well-liked by former CNN boss Jeff Zucker, who resigned in February over his relationship with the channel's chief marketing officer, Allison Gollust, often socializing with one another and chatting about company gossip.

'Chris' first priority will be fixing CNN's morning and primetime programming,' the insider source told Radar. 'That is where the big advertiser money is. Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon, and the morning hosts should be concerned.'

Licht is also eyeing CNN correspondent Jamie Gangel and is rumored to wanting to bring in late-night TV talk show host Stephen Colbert, with whom he worked during his time at CBS News, as well as other familiar names including MSNBC 'Morning Joe' co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, according to Radar.

CNN is considering recalling Kaitlan Collins, CNN's Chief White House correspondent, back in- house to improve the news network's ratings and reputation in favor of some of the channel's opinionated anchors like Lemon or Anderson Cooper

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MSNBC Morning Joe co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brezinski are other familiar names that Licht has worked with in the past and is allegedly considering to hire at CNN

TV talk show host Stephen Colbert is being rumored as a possible new addition at CNN, rumors report. Licht and Colbert know each other well as the new CNN boss used to be the executive producer of 'The Late Night Show with Stephen Colbert' at CBS

Suggestions claiming those at CNN who do not follow Licht's vision might face the firing boot do not seem to concern Lemon, as he confirmed to Charlamagne: 'yes, I will be able to do what I do on CNN.'

'If I'm not allowed to do that, then I will go on and do it somewhere else,' Lemon added.

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Asked whether he would be ready to walk out on the news network if that moment came sooner rather than later, Lemon said: 'It's not just CNN. If people don't allow journalists to be journalists because, again, we hold the powerful accountable... That is what our jobs are, that's what we're supposed to do.'

'So why would it be any different for us to do it for the people who are in charge of us? To question what they're doing, to hold them accountable, to make sure that they are doing what is right, even if they are the people who hire us,' he added.

Charlamagne then brought up the topic of Chris Cuomo's firing from CNN in November of last year when several reports revealed the new NewsNation host assisted in the defense against sexual harassment allegations that led to the resignation of his brother, ousted former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

'You used to say, 'I love you, brother.' And he'd used to say, 'I love you, brother.' It was something about seeing a black man and a ehite man on television doing that… do you still love him?' Charlamagne asked Lemon, referring to his famous primetime handoff with Cuomo.

'Of course, of course. I love everybody,' Lemon answered.

Lemon was also asked about his relationship with former CNN colleague Chris Cuomo's before his firing in November for assisting in the defense against sexual harassment allegations that led to the resignation of his brother, ousted former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

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Charlamagne then alluded to how Cuomo bemoaned the lack of follow-ups he's received from former CNN colleagues who commented on his firing, including Lemon.

'I should have called him for what - I don't know the context. I don't know what he said,' Lemon responded.

'I guess after everything that happened to him,' Charlamagne cleared up.

'I had spoken to Chris for a while. I mean, I don't know what he said, I haven't heard what he said but I don't know, that's not true,' Lemon concluded.

Talk of ringing changes at CNN comes as the news network is expected to drop right below $1 billion ($956.8 million) in profit this year, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. The massive drop is the first time the news network doesn't meet the benchmark since 2016.

The network's ratings also continue to plummet as the company witnesses their lowest numbers in seven years. Competitor MSNBC has also seen declines since former President Trump took office.

CNN has decreased in viewership by 27 percent since last year as an average of 639,000 tuned in this quarter, according to a report. MSNBC viewership is down by 23 percent. Meanwhile, Fox News viewership is up by 1 percent.

When Licht took over in May, he attempted to resolve the declining numbers by riding CNN+, a new platform offering original programming, that failed after it was being streamed by only 5,000 to 10,000 people. The company is still paying costs associated with the platform.

The company also cut back on various budget sectors including travel expenses. It also spent millions on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. To help solve the networks economic dilemma, Licht brought in Chris Marlin to help, an executive at a Florida real estate with a law background.

Marlin, who has no experience in television networking, was hired as head of strategy and business operations in May. He has attempted to invest in advertising gigs with big companies, such as Microsoft. He has also tossed around ideas about expanding CNN into China.

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Licht's goal is to 'go a different way' with the network at a time when 'extremes are dominating cable news.'


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