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CNN signals return to partisan era with coverage of Trump indictment: ‘Aura of divisiveness is back’

In the week since CEO Chris Licht was dismissed, CNN has given off “an aura of divisiveness” and signaled a return to the earlier Jeff Zucker-era of liberal opinion programing that famously tarnished CNN’s once-nonpartisan reputation, according to media watchdogs. 

“The inmates are running the asylum again over at CNN in the post-Licht era. And the piousness is so thick you can cut a knife with it,” Fox News contributor Joe Concha said. 

“CNN gets to be the resistance network again. The inmates are happy,” Concha added. “They’re also insufferable in their hypocrisy.”

Licht said he wanted to tamp down the liberal, anti-Trump approach that defined his predecessor Zucker. But he faced internal dissension throughout his tenure, which came to a head when he offered former President Trump a chance to appear in a CNN town hall last month. Licht was fired last week after a little more than a year on the job, having lost the faith of both the newsroom and Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav.

“The talent comes across as victorious in a TV version of ‘Mean Girls’ against this supposedly threatening bully in Licht,” Houck continued, noting Licht had never run a newsroom before in his career. 

Licht quickly fell out of favor with many CNN staffers when he announced plans to scrap CNN+ before he even officially started. He was then shamed for sitting in an office several floors from the newsroom, and criticized as aloof and detached from CNN’s biggest stars. 

Licht was also publicly criticized by reporters such as Christiane Amanpour for even airing the Trump town hall, while Anderson Cooper told viewers he understood if they decided to ditch CNN forever for airing it. Cooper and Jake Tapper both reportedly groaned about Licht to Warner Bros. Discovery honchos, and CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy publicly undermined his now-former boss at every turn. 

The network’s liberal decision makers “surely feel emboldened with their new-found power and can revert to their ‘Trump resistance’ approach to journalism,” McCall said. 

“The Trump legal troubles give the entrenched CNN activists the chance to again operationalize their ideological approach to news,” McCall added. “With Licht out of the way, there is apparently nobody around who can advocate for a balanced, measured approach to news coverage.”

Tapper told CNN audiences on Tuesday night that it would be “dangerous” to carry a Trump speech live. Those comments came roughly one month after Licht’s infamous Trump town hall, in which the GOP presidential frontrunner was given a chance to reach a non-conservative audience. But those days appear to be dwindling, as Tapper also rebuked CNN producers for showing Trump with supporters at a Miami restaurant. 

“The same Andrew McCabe who was fired from the FBI for lying about leaking to the press,” Concha said. 

In his media newsletter “Reliable Sources,” Darcy took a shot at his former boss as he gloated about CNN not airing the speech. Darcy is often sharply critical of conservative media and Republicans. 

“The move to not air Trump’s remarks live notably represented a departure from how the network handled Trump’s post-New York arraignment speech. In that case, under former boss Chris Licht, CNN aired most of Trump’s remarks,” Darcy wrote. 

“Unfortunately for CNN, the lunatics have reclaimed control of the asylum,” Elliott told Fox News Digital. “Having outlasted Licht, Darcy was only too happy to celebrate CNN returning to its 24/7 [Trump Derangement Syndrome] programming, bragging in his newsletter about Tapper forgoing news in favor of extended anti-Trump sermonizing from CNN talking heads.”

Elliott believes Licht sincerely wanted to fix the network, but CNN’s fact-checker Daniel Dale appearing on the network following a post-Licht Trump speech. 

“Dale was back on TV, this time spreading misinformation that Biden wasn’t involved in the case against Trump  — when court filings have shown he’s the one who pulled in the FBI. That segment is actually a perfect metaphor for everything Chris Licht was trying to fix,” Elliott said. 

“I’m always going to air on the side of the First Amendment and the need for the public to see and hear from candidates running for any office, but especially the presidency,” Walling told Fox News Digital.

“I don’t think airing the former president’s speeches, despite them being filled with lies and false statements, does irreparable harm to the electorate,” Walling continued. “If anything, it reinforces the opinion held by a majority of Americans that Trump is untrustworthy and has committed serious crimes against the United States.” 

The alleged changes to Licht’s CNN that many on the left felt betrayed by weren’t even particularly significant aside from letting viewers hear from Trump, according to Houck. The network toned down the snarky chyrons made famous during the Zucker regime and made an effort to book GOP lawmakers, but Houck believes “Licht failed to make wholesale changes to the tone and tenor” of CNN. 

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