MSNBC host Joe Scarborough slammed Warner Bros. Discovery boss David Zaslav for axing CNN’s Chris Licht after The Atlantic published a scathing profile about the network boss.
“If I were a CEO, I would die before I let a magazine article determine who I was going to hire and fire,” the “Morning Joe” host said.
Licht handed in his resignation last week following a failed last-ditch effort to keep running the ratings-beleaguered network.
However, commentators haven’t billed Licht’s exit as voluntary, but as a move premeditated by Zaslav after The Atlantic’s 15,000-word, fiercely critical exposé portrayed Licht as a thin-skinned executive that isolated himself from his workforce and struggled to move out of his beloved predecessor’s shadow.
Scarborough took Zaslav to task for dumping “my friend Chris Licht” after just one year.
“I would call him in and say, ‘You screwed up, shut your mouth, keep your head down, do the job I hired you for and we’re going to put this behind us,” the anchor said.
Scarborough — who co-hosts the MSNBC morning show Licht is known for launching and executive producing — has previously defended Licht, noting the network was struggling to pull in viewers even before he took over as boss.
“This idea that it was a ratings juggernaut when it just wasn’t before Chris walked through the door, that’s just… that’s just bad reporting,” Scarborough argued on a previous “Morning Joe” segment.
Last month, “CNN This Morning,” which Licht launched as one of his first orders of business, had an audience of 309,000, according to data by USTVDB.
It was even worse in the highly-sought-after 25-to-54-year-old demographic, with a measly 78,000 viewers.
Meanwhile, in May, “Morning Joe” raked in an audience of 814,000, including 111,000 in the demo, USTVDB figures showed.
Scarborough admitted Licht “made mistakes,” but also believed “he learned from mistakes.”
The anchor called Zaslav’s decision to part ways with Licht a “scared money” move.
Zaslav has tapped a three-person “acting leadership team” consisting of talent boss Amy Entelis, editorial head Virginia Moseley and programming chief Eric Sherling while searching for Licht’s replacement.
Scarborough likened the restructuring to Bud Light’s attempt to crawl its way out of controversy following an ill-fated partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney by putting its own staffers on leave.
“Let’s talk about Bud. Okay, you’re letting people do things, they do things, and then you’re going to suspend them or fire them,” Scarborough said as he got increasingly heated in reference to the two Bud Light marketing executives that were put on leave after the partnership’s faulty launch.
An April 1 post on Mulvaney’s Instagram of a Bud Light can with her face on it in celebration of “365 of Girlhood” sent the beer maker to the eye of a type of culture storm over LGBTQ+ rights.
By the end of the month, Daniel Blake, who oversees marketing for Anheuser-Busch’s mainstream brands, and Alissa Heinerscheid — the brewer’s vice president of marketing — were on a leave of absence.
People familiar with the matter said the decision to take leave was not voluntary, and it’s unclear if Blake and Heinersscheid have returned to work.
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