CNN officials said they fear a network-wide purge of top talent after Brian Stelter and White House correspondent John Hardwood were summarily fired.
After Hardwood announced his surprise departure on Friday, just hours after reporting from the White House, current and former CNN staffers told the Washington Post that there appeared to have been a weeding process at the media office.
Both Hardwood and Reliable Sources host Stelter, who was fired last month, saw their contracts prematurely terminated.
It’s being seen as evidence that new boss Chris Licht is trying to oust those critical of Donald Trump and his allies in a bid to present a more neutral CNN and reclaim its title of “most trusted name in the news.”
A CNN journalist told the Post, “People freaked out. It almost feels like there is a pattern. Is there a cleanup?
“They seem to be sending a message, ‘Be careful what you say. Watch what you do.”
CNN staffers fear a network-wide purge of awakened talent following the sudden firing of WH correspondent John Harwood (left) and Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter (right).
The firings are being taken as evidence that new boss Chris Licht (above) is trying to oust those critical of Donald Trump and his allies in order to present a more neutral CNN
In a memo to employees in May, Licht, who was appointed to the network by Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, said CNN needed to win back people’s trust.
He said the outlet must focus on “fearlessly speaking the truth to those in power, challenging the status quo, challenging ‘groupthink,’ and enlightening viewers and readers with simple facts and insightful commentary, while always… respect different points of view”.
But CNN journalists say the new boss has done little to elaborate on what his vision entails and what reporters should do to avoid appearing biased when covering important issues.
“I think they’re hoping people will just guess what to do,” a journalist told the Post.
Another staffer also criticized the network’s lack of explanations about the recent layoffs, saying, “Longtime CNN personalities are disappearing and viewers don’t know why.”
Viewers online speculated that Anker could be next, with mention of Don Lemon, a lightning rod for the rights. Other popular anchors on the possible chopping block were Jim Acosta and Jake Tapper.
A veteran producer, who spoke on condition of anonymity with the others about concerns about their jobs, said the recent departures and unclear news ahead of the upcoming midterm elections spell trouble for the network.
“It’s a really confusing and troubling time from top to bottom at CNN,” the producer told the Post. “I don’t know anyone who is happy right now.”
In a statement of Harwood’s firing, CNN said, “We appreciate John’s work covering the White House and we wish him well.”
CNN viewers online speculated that anchors could be next, including Don Lemon (above)
CNN’s Jim Acosta (left) and Jake Tapper (right) may also be on the chopping block for their past criticism of former President Trump
Harwood, 65, has had a long and colorful career that has included stints at The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and CNBC.
He tweeted Friday afternoon that he had “personal news” to share, saying “today is my last day at CNN.”
The reporter, who has been with CNN since 2021, said he was “proud of the work” and thanked his colleagues.
Harwood has been a vocal critic of Trump, and earlier this year he said Trump was “mentally ill.”
On his last day at work, Harwood called Trump a “dishonest demagogue” and agreed with Joe Biden’s divisive speech in which he called the former president and his MAGA supporters “a threat” to American democracy.
Harwood admitted his remarks had strayed from the path of journalism but maintained his criticism of Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that the 2020 election was stolen.
“We are brought up to believe that there are two different political parties with different viewpoints, and we don’t take sides when there is honest disagreement between them,” he said.
“But we don’t talk about that. These are not honest disagreements.’
Former CNN contributor Wajahat Ali told the Post that Harwood’s departure was most likely intentional to save face after he was fired.
Stelter’s show, which competed with Fox News’ MediaBuzz, couldn’t keep up in the battle for viewership
Ali suggested the layoffs were a way of getting the message across to the rest of CNN’s staff, to keep opinions out of their reports.
Harwood’s departure comes less than a month after CNN mainstay Brian Stelter was forced off the network when they canceled his Sunday media show, Reliable Sources.
Stelter was reportedly called into Licht’s office looking “ashen.”
However, the show has struggled in its ratings war with Fox News.
Fox’s rival show, MediaBuzz, averaged 1.5 million viewers this year, while Reliable Sources had 787,000.
The internal loss of employees comes after CNN shut down its CNN+ streaming service after less than a month of being online.
This decision resulted in the layoff of 239 employees.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11176729/CNN-staffers-terrified-Brian-Stelter-John-Harwood-fired.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 CNN employees ‘appalled’ after Brian Stelter and John Harwood were fired