CNN's Christiane Amanpour calls out boss Chris Licht, offers stunning rebuke of Trump town hall

The veteran journalist revealed she confronted network CEO Chris Licht about the 'earthquake' CNN event

The public outcry by CNN staffers about the network's Trump town hall has only gotten louder with veteran journalist Christiane Amanpour calling out her boss Chris Licht by name during a commencement speech given to the 2023 graduates of the Columbia Journalism School, describing the televised event as an "earthquake."

"I have always opted to speak out when staying silent might have been easier," Amanpour said to the graduates Wednesday before telling them, "So right now in this moment, for me personally, I want to do what's right, and empathize with and acknowledge all those who need to trust us at CNN, the most trusted name in news."

Amanpour revealed that she met with Licht at CNN's New York headquarters after flying in from London to "hear from him firsthand what he'd been thinking," which led to a "very robust exchange of views" between the two.


"My management believes they did the right thing, a service to the American people. Some reports have written about important new thoughts and things that we learned from Trump's very mouth that night… Time could very well prove that Trump's electroshock therapy to the world jolts the undecided into greater awareness," Amanpour said. "For me, of course, the fact that the American people voted three times against Trump and Trumpism- 2018, 2020, 2022- also speaks volumes. We've done our duty. We have told the story. We have put that in everybody's awareness and people have had the opportunity to make their choices and they have done." 

She continued, "I still respectfully disagree with allowing Donald Trump to appear in that particular format," which sparked applause from the audience.  

Christiane Amanpour graduation speech

CNN veteran journalist Christiane Amanpour blasted her network's town hall and called out her boss Chris Licht by name during her commencement speech at the Columbia Journalism School. (Screenshot/Columbia Journalism School)

The 65-year-old anchor appeared to knock the moderator performance of her 31-year-old colleague Kaitlan Collins.

"We know Trump and his tendencies, everyone does. He just seizes the stage and dominates no matter how much flak the moderator tries to aim at the incoming. It doesn't often work. For me, I would have dropped the mic at ‘nasty person,’ but then that's me. I've been in the ring for a long time with many of these people," Amanpour said, referring to Trump's on-air insult of the CNN host. 

Amanpour called CNN's town hall debacle a "well-timed practical masterclass," asking the future journalists "What would you do if you had been the decider?" 


placeholder"The American press and maybe the world's press still hasn't learned how to deal with or cover Donald Trump. Maybe we should revert back to the newspaper editors and TV chiefs of the 1950s, who in the end refused to allow McCarthyism onto their pages unless his foul lies, his witch hunts and his rants reached the basic evidence level required in a court of law," Amanpour suggested. "So maybe less is more. Maybe live is not always right. Which brings us to the second most talked about problem: the invited audience. Quite apart from their demographic, I believe it is our home. And therefore, there is plenty of town hall and presidential and other televised debate precedent to insist that our invited guests behave themselves – no hooting, no hollering no jeering, no cheering. Chris Licht told me he agrees that the execution was lacking a little and that I am sure we will not witness that same appalling behavior in future town halls."

She further argued that some of the most "compelling" interviews "are, in fact, taped," insisting that they are edited "not to change the context or the content, or the truth, or the intent, but to edit for filibuster and a stream of disinformation."

Amanpour also shared her "mantra" with the Columbia graduates to "be truthful, but not neutral," telling them "Both-siderism—on the one hand, on the other hand — is not always objectivity. It does not get you to the truth." She added, "Drawing false, moral or factual equivalence is neither objective or truthful. Objectivity is our golden rule. And it is in weighing all the sides and all the evidence hearing everyone reporting everything, but not rushing to equate them when there is no equating and look at the damage that that has done in the climate debate. In the political arena, and in the field of battle."

"Today I can only hope that your trust in us might have been shaken but not shattered, that you believe we can survive and rebuild that trust and that most importantly, you will continue to see and know that we are still the only network that brings you the world as we have done over the past 43 years… Again, it doesn't mean we always get everything right, especially in the chaos of our current media landscape," Amanpour said. 

Amanpour's comments were then prominently featured in CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy's "Reliable Sources" newsletter, telling readers "It has been one week since CNN's town hall with Donald Trump — and the fierce fallout stemming from the event is still reverberating."

Darcy, who was scolded last week by Licht over his "emotional" coverage, took a swipe at his boss while covering Amanpour's remarks, saying "After hearing out Licht, Amanpour told the Columbia Journalism School graduates that she had not been moved." 



"Inside CNN, Amanpour is far from alone in her views. In private, the town hall has been widely criticized by employees at all levels across the organization. Some of these employees believe that Trump wasn't worthy of a town hall platform after leading the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol and continuing to spew dangerous lies about the 2020 election. Others believe that it was a worthy endeavor to confront him, but that the event was poorly executed," Darcy wrote. 

Notably, CNN's "emotional" media reporter chose to lead his newsletter with Amanpour's remarks rather than the network's announcement that Collins will officially fill the long-vacant 9 p.m. ET timeslot, placing it the "Below The Fold" section. 

And Darcy continued to undermine Licht's judgment as CNN's leader. 

"The move comes after CNN experimented with a wide array of programming in the 9pm slot. But, from a ratings standpoint, nothing really stuck," Darcy wrote. "Industry veterans and executives I've spoken with have often pointed to the fact that viewers want consistency in the evenings, which Collins will now provide. The decision to elevate Collins, capping her meteoric rise, comes at a crucial time, given that CNN's ratings in prime time have been sagging to dangerous lows."

CNN viewership has fallen off a cliff since the polarizing town hall. The ratings-challenged network managed 2.3 million primetime viewers last Wednesday for the event that irked Darcy, but shed 77% of that audience the following evening when only 538,000 primetime viewers tuned in. As Darcy noted, CNN’s primetime viewership sunk even further to an average of 335,000 on Friday. 

It was reported by Semafor that after Licht summoned Darcy to confront his overzealous coverage of the town hall, the reporter "wondered to colleagues whether he should resign or if he will be fired by the network."  A spokesperson for CNN told Fox News Digital "Oliver does not intend to resign."

Oliver Darcy Chris Licht

CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy was scolded by his boss Chris Licht over his "emotional" coverage of the network's Trump town hall. (CNN/Reuters)

Even after Darcy's bosses "put the fear of God into him" and left him "visibly shaken," per Puck News, Darcy continued knocking the town hall, suggesting in Monday's newsletter that CNN's ratings slump in primetime is tied to the backlash.

placeholderIt is unclear how long Darcy will last at CNN as he continues to bash the town hall and question network leadership. Last year, Licht fired Darcy's media comrade Brian Stelter and canceled CNN's long-running program "Reliable Sources." Darcy later took over the "Reliable Sources" newsletter, which had previously been authored by Stelter, but the CEO ultimately chose not to ask Darcy to be Stelter's on-air successor.

But Licht himself, who has now been on the job for over a year, is under immense pressure to turn around CNN's cratering viewership and quell the liberal network's polarizing perception. And the recent town hall as well as his now-publicized reprimand of Darcy are prompting network staffers to sharpen their pitchforks.

"In all my reporting on CNN over the last 18 months… I have never felt such an overwhelming sense of frustration and resentment toward Licht as in the week since the town hall, and never from such a broad range of sources, more than 40 of whom I’ve spoken with in recent days. The Amanpour speech and the Darcy newsletter are merely the most diplomatic and nuanced articulations of those sentiments. In private, they are far more passionate and explicit—emotional, you might say," Puck News' Dylan Byers wrote Wednesday.

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper attempted to defend the town hall while blasting the former president as well as the network's critics. 

"You have every right to be outraged and angry and never watch this network again. But do you think staying in your silo and only listening to people you agree with is going to make that person go away?" Cooper lectured his liberal viewers. 

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