The fallout from the firing of Brian Stelter and the cancellation of Reliable Sources continues this week.
CNN insiders tell Confider that staffers cannot shake the feeling the shocking move was made to appease John Malone, a right-leaning billionaire, close friend of the Murdoch family, and key Warner Bros. Discovery board member who has made it well-known that he would like CNN to be more “centrist”—whatever that means.
While Malone has denied he is “directly involved” in any decisions about CNN, multiple current and former staffers who spoke to us relayed a fear that the libertarian mogul is indirectly dictating an agenda to newly installed CNN boss Chris Licht.
Sources further suggested that internal fears about future changes stem from how Licht has kept his cards close to his chest, with members of his own management team being left in the dark about next moves.
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The news of Stelter’s axing was actually supposed to be announced Friday with a carefully managed story placed with NPR, sources told Confider, but the news leaked early, including—perhaps curiously—to two conservative outlets, the Daily Mail and the Tucker Carlson-founded Daily Caller, which were both tipped off on Thursday morning.
Stelter had been an antagonist of right-wing media for much of his time at the Reliable Sources desk, but other similarly vocal CNN stars like Don Lemon and Jim Acosta are safe for now, sources familiar with the matter told Confider.
Instead, these insiders said, Licht will next turn his attention to “blowing up” CNN’s ratings-challenged morning show New Day, having brought on his old buddy Ryan Kadro from CBS to help rework it.
Nevertheless, staffers fear further cutbacks and more layoffs as Licht, who has told friends he speaks to David Zaslav on a daily basis, seemingly carries out the Warner Bros. Discovery CEO and his board’s wishes to make CNN less controversial and, in the words of several current and former CNN staffers, “more vanilla.”
A CNN spokesperson declined to comment.
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