Chris Licht exits CNN but network in shambles amid leadership void

CNN on Wednesday ousted hated CEO Chris Licht — but the struggling cable network remains a “house on fire” with plunging ratings and no clear successor in sight.

Corporate overlord David Zaslav broke the news of Licht’s exit to stunned staff and installed a troika of veterans — editorial head Virginia Moseley, programming chief Eric Sherling and talent boss Amy Entelis — to clean up the mess of his 13-month tenure.

“Everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief today,” a former CNN producer told The Post. “While people are happy that Licht is gone, there’s still a sense of dread that the turmoil is going to continue.”

The general feeling inside CNN’s New York headquarters at Hudson Yards is that CNN is a “house on fire,” the source added, noting that the three-headed monster is a “Band-Aid” for the situation, “not a long-term solution.”

Moseley’s ascension was particularly concerning to many staffers because of the exec’s “terse” and “icy” bedside manner, multiple sources said.

Chris Licht
CNN CEO Chris Licht was ousted from the slumping network and replaced by a trio of interim execs, after a tumultuous tenure at the cable news network.
Getty Images for Semafor

“She is a tyrant,” one former co-worker said. “She has no people skills whatsoever. She is iron-fisted and demanded everyone show up to work after the pandemic.”

“She’s not warm and fuzzy,” another source said.

Moseley, a Harvard University graduate who has been at CNN for a decade, was elevated last year by Licht to become executive vice president of editorial, overseeing all of CNN’s breaking news coverage and domestic newsgathering.

“She’s kind of like Anna Wintour,” offered a third source who worked closely with Moseley in comparing her to the “Devil Wears Prada” editor in chief of Vogue magazine.

Virginia Moseley
Insiders described Virginia Moseley, one of the three elevated execs, as a “tyrant,” who could be “harsh” and divisive.

“She can be harsh and belittling,” the source said. “She’s not abusive but she will tell you if you’re terrible. If she doesn’t like the outcome of something, she will go around her colleagues instead of working with them.”

Moseley, 50, spent 10 years at CBS News and had a stint at ABC News before joining CNN in 2012 to manage CNN’s White House, National Security and Justice Department, among other political reporting teams.

Some staffers did sing Moseley’s praises, saying she is liked by on air-talent and that she is an excellent journalist, who is extremely smart and “astute” with an expertise in Washington politics.

She is married to Tom Nides, who was named the US ambassador to Israel in 2021, which during his nomination raised the specter of a conflict of interest.

Sherling, 49, is better liked at the network, a source said, but too “socially awkward” for the public-facing role.

Eric Sherling
Sources praised Eric Sherling as a strong cable programmer but they questioned his social skills and leadership for the top job.

“Eric is a fine cable TV programmer,” a former colleague said. “He’s fine but unspectacular. He’s not a leader, he’s not a visionary, he’s not a strategist.”

“I’m sure the guy has friends,” echoed a second source who worked with Sherling. “He’s got zero personality and zero people skills and that’s a problem.”

Up until last month, he had an interim role as CNN Worldwide’s executive vice president of US programming.

Sherling has worked at CNN for nearly two decades, interrupted by a two-year stint at ABC, and “oversees all New York, Washington and Atlanta-based live programs for CNN US,” his bio touts.

Meanwhile, Entelis is the most accomplished and most respected of the three, according to sources.

She has recruited and developed much of CNN’s on-air talent since leaving ABC News to join the cable news network in 2012 — including anchors like Anderson Cooper, Jake Tapper and John Berman.

Entelis also helped launched the career of Robyn Roberts at ABC News.

“She’s calming for the talent and she’s a great producer,” a CNN source told The Post. “I think she’s universally liked but it’s unclear if Amy is going to stay [at the network].”

However, the source cited Entelis’ age — 72 — as a potential factor of why she wouldn’t be right for the job.

Amy Entelis
The well-liked Amy Entelis appears to be the frontrunner for Licht’s job, having developed a slew of on-air and off-air talent at CNN.
Getty Images for Turner

“Amy Entelis is well respected but is she a dynamo at this point?” asked one former coworker of the exec.

“I don’t see any of them getting elevated [to Licht’s role] but I also don’t see anyone getting the job on the outside either,” an insider said, noting that there aren’t many executives who could succeed in the role.

CNN did not comment.

Zaslav has said all three will work with his loyal lieutenant David Leavy, who was installed last week as CNN’s chief operating officer, while the Warner Bros. Discovery boss casts a wide net for Licht’s replacement.

“We have great confidence in this group and will fully support them until a new CEO is named,” he said. “We are in good hands, allowing us to take the time we need to run a thoughtful and thorough search for a new leader.”

Zaslav said he’s planning the CEO search to take months.

David Zaslav
Warner Bros. Discovery boss David Zaslav ousted Licht after a scathing magazine profile slammed the embattled CEO.
AFP via Getty Images

Licht’s dramatic demise comes less than week after a scathing magazine profile which depicted him as thin-skinned, aloof, and paranoid about negative media coverage as well as resentful of lingering staff loyalty to his predecessor, Jeff Zucker.

“The issue with Chris was this is all down to ego. He thought he was smarter than everyone and didn’t need anyone’s help. He wasn’t interested in what anyone had to say,” a source with knowledge said.

“Everything he touched blew up,” added a media veteran, who cited several programming failures, chief among them his decision to relaunch and rebrand the morning show under Don Lemon, Kaitlan Collins and Poppy Harlow — only to fire Lemon and move Collins to primetime — months later.

Chris Licht
Licht’s short-lived tenure at CNN included a handful of programming missteps, including the relaunch of network’s flailing morning show.
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Zaslav accepted some of the blame for hiring Licht, whom he tasked with pivoting CNN to more centrist coverage after years of jousting with Republicans, especially President Donald Trump.

“Unfortunately, things did not work out the way we had hoped — and ultimately that’s on me,” Zaslav told shell-shocked staffers during an early morning editorial call on Wednesday.

Sources said it’s vital that Zaslav doesn’t repeat the same mistake as the all-important presidential election is coming up, putting pressure for CNN to get it right and turn around their ratings, which cratered 25% in primetime in May compared to last year.

“They need to get their act together for the election,” said a former CNN employee.

“Who is setting the direction?” asked another source with knowledge of the three executives. “Firing Chris Licht isn’t going to change CNN’s problems. Who is leading the charge now?”

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