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CNN Staff ‘Terrified’ As Company Continues To Cut On-Air Talent

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


Staffers and on-air personalities at CNN are increasingly “terrified” of losing their jobs as a new boss seeks to realign the network’s hard-left political slant.

As reported by The Washington Post, fears of a purge of sorts rose following the firing late last month of Brian Stelter and the shock announcement last week that network correspondent John Harwood was also departing.

The paper reported that Harwood appeared on CNN Friday morning reporting from the White House but by noon had taken to social media to announce his departure.

The Post adds:

Harwood, a longtime Wall Street Journal reporter, joined the network in January 2020, after working as CNBC’s chief Washington correspondent from 2006 to 2019. According to two people with knowledge of the situation, Harwood still had time remaining on his CNN contract, which suggests that network brass decided to end his tenure prematurely.

“We appreciate John’s work covering the White House, and we wish him all the best,” a network spokesperson told the Post.

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The changes come after new CEO, Chris Licht, joined the network earlier this year. There is a range of speculation that his bosses want CNN to be more politically neutral and therefore are steadily replacing one partisan host and correspondent after another.

“People are freaked out. It almost feels like there’s a pattern. Is there a purge going on?” one CNN journalist told the paper. “They seem to be sending a message: ‘Watch what you say. Watch what you do.'”

“Longtime CNN personalities are disappearing, and the viewers don’t know why,” another CNN staffer told the Post.

Most of the network’s personalities and hosts have been hyper-critical of former President Donald Trump and Republicans in general. Rumor has it that Licht has been tasked with rooting out the bias and realigning the network towards more neutral coverage.

In May, Licht seemed to give that impression, telling the network’s staff after he was appointed by Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav that CNN, which has tanked in ratings, needed to regain Americans’ trust. The network must focus “fearlessly speaking truth to power, challenging the status quo, questioning ‘group-think,’ and educating viewers and readers with straightforward facts and insightful commentary, while always being respectful of differing viewpoints,” said Licht in the staff memo.

The DailyMail.com added:

Viewers were speculating online that anchors could be next, with Don Lemon, a lightning rod for the right, being mentioned. Other popular anchors on the possible chopping block included Jim Acosta and Jake Tapper.  

A veteran producer, who like the others spoke on the condition of anonymity over concerns about their jobs, said the recent departures and unclear messaging spells trouble for the network ahead of the upcoming midterm elections. 

“It’s a really confusing and unsettling time from top to bottom at CNN,” the producer told the outlet. “I don’t know anyone who is happy right now.”

For his part, during his Friday morning appearance, Harwood laced into Trump anew as he appeared to praise President Joe Biden’s Thursday prime-time speech, which was actually criticized by a fellow CNN host for its optics.

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Harwood called Trump a “dishonest demagogue” when discussing Biden’s address from Independence Hall in Philadelphia, adding that the “core point” of Biden’s speech, which claimed that Trump and his supporters present a threat to democracy, “is true.”

“We are brought up to believe there’s two different political parties with different points of view and we don’t take sides in honest disagreements between them,” he said of the traditional role of a journalist. “But that’s not what we’re talking about. These are not honest disagreements.”

Wajahat Ali, a political commentator who served as a CNN contributor in 2019 and 2020, told the Post he saw Harwood’s remarks as a parting shot at Trump. “I don’t think it was an accident,” he said.

Meanwhile, on Friday morning, CNN’s “New Day” co-host Brianna Keilar criticized the optics of Biden’s speech: Flanked by two U.S. Marines.

“Whatever you think of this speech the military is supposed to be apolitical. Positioning Marines in uniform behind President Biden for a political speech flies in the face of that. It’s wrong when Democrats do it. It’s wrong when Republicans do it,” Keilar — who is married to U.S. Army Lt. Col. Fernando Luján, a Special Forces officer — tweeted.

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