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6 Reasons It Was a Brutal Year to Be an Anti-Trump CNN Personality

Veteran CNN White House correspondent John Harwood earlier this month became the latest anti-Trump personality to leave the cable news network amid its shift away from highly partisan coverage.

SO WHAT

Can CNN win the trust of a public that doesn’t trust the media anymore?

THE SHIFT

New CNN CEO and chairman Chris Licht has been looking to tone down the network’s partisanship, which ran rampant under former president Jeff Zucker.

Some CNN employees have expressed concerns about a wave of high-profile departures as the network has sought to rebuild following Discovery’s acquisition of WarnerMedia, CNN’s parent company.

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

THE HIT LIST

CNN has seen some of its most popular liberal personalities get fired, demoted, suspended or quit in a span of just a few years.

JEFF ZUCKER, FORMER PRESIDENT

  • WHAT HAPPENED: Zucker, who led CNN’s transformation into the unofficial network of the #Resistance to Trump, resigned in February after acknowledging a consensual relationship with a colleague.
  • MEMORABLE QUOTE: “People say all the time, ‘Oh, I don’t want to talk about Trump. I’ve had too much Trump,’” Zucker told Vanity Fair in 2018. “And yet at the end of the day, all they want to do is talk about Trump. We’ve seen that, anytime you break away from the Trump story and cover other events in this era, the audience goes away. So we know that, right now, Donald Trump dominates.”

JEFFREY TOOBIN, FORMER CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST

  • WHAT HAPPENED: Toobin was placed on leave from the network in 2020 after admitting he’d exposed himself to his colleagues at The New Yorker during a video call. In August, CNN and Toobin cut ties for good.
  • MEMORABLE QUOTE:President Trump was impeached for one reason. Because he deserved it,” Toobin tweeted in December 2019.

CHRIS CUOMO, FORMER HOST, “CUOMO PRIMETIME”

  • WHAT HAPPENED: CNN terminated Cuomo in December after details came to light about his involvement in the defense of his brother, Andrew Cuomo, from sexual harassment allegations by multiple women. The star anchor’s familial ties to the former New York governor, who resigned in 2021, created an ethics headache for CNN.
  • MEMORABLE QUOTE: “It’s like the N-word for [Italians,]” Cuomo said in 2019 in response to being called, “Fredo,” a reference to a character from the iconic 1972 mafia film, “The Godfather.”

BRIAN STELTER, FORMER HOST, “RELIABLE SOURCES”

  • WHAT HAPPENED: Stelter left CNN last month after the network axed “Reliable Sources,” his long-running media criticism show.
  • MEMORABLE QUOTE: “This place is not perfect. It will never be perfect, but the people who say we’re lacking journalism, that we’ve become an all-talk channel, that we’ve run off and we’re all opinions all the time, that Jeff Zucker led us astray,” Stelter said in February following Zucker’s ousting. “Those people aren’t watching CNN.”

JOHN HARWOOD, FORMER CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT

  • WHAT HAPPENED: Harwood exited the network in early September as part of a roster overhaul.
  • MEMORABLE QUOTE: “The Republican Party right now is led by a dishonest demagogue,” Harwood said, referring to former President Trump, during his last appearance on CNN earlier this month.

DON LEMON, HOST, “DON LEMON TONIGHT”

  • WHAT HAPPENED: Lemon has been tapped to co-anchor a new morning program for CNN, meaning his primetime show will be coming to an end, CNN announced last week. The host has adamantly denied characterizations of the move as a “demotion.”
  • MEMORABLE QUOTE: “We sit around and we talk about these things and we want to give this false equivalence to Democrats and Republicans. It is not the current situation. Republicans have done something very harmful to society, and that must be acknowledged. We have to acknowledge that as Americans, we must acknowledge that as journalists because if we don’t, we are not doing our jobs,” Lemon said on air in July.

THE KICKER

In late 2021, John Malone, a major stakeholder in Warner Bros. Discovery, CNN’s parent company, said he hoped the network would return to the type of journalism it was once known for.

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