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'Well ... That Wasn't Boring': CNN's Chris Licht Looked Like He 'Survived a Car Wreck' After Disastrous Trump Town Hall

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Source: ZUMAPRESS.com / MEGA; MEGA

Jun. 2 2023, Published 11:15 a.m. ET

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CNN's new leader Chris Licht has been on a "mission" to restore the network's reputation and ratings, weathering numerous challenges and making tough cuts long before Donald Trump's town hall led to more backlash than ever anticipated, RadarOnline.com has learned.

"When Licht found me in the lobby, commenting on how not boring the night had been, it wasn't clear how much of the blowback he'd already seen," Tim Alberta wrote in a lengthy piece published by The Atlantic, for which Licht spoke with him directly.

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The 70-minute special was moderated by anchor Kaitlan Collins, who was tasked with tailoring the conversation, real-time fact-checking and keeping the segment on track.

She gave a "masterful" performance, according to Licht who previously praised her on a 9 AM editorial call while also commenting on the audible support Trump received that evening even when he spoke of voter fraud and called her a "nasty person."

"While we all may have been uncomfortable hearing people clapping, that was also an important part of the story," Licht had remarked the following morning.

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Rumors swirled that CNN had dug itself into a hole after the town hall, especially when CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy said the network was "facing a fury of criticism" within the company and outside of it.

Alberta ran into Licht in Manchester, New Hampshire, and he could see a change on Licht's face.

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"I came across Licht wearing the expression of a man who had just survived a car wreck. Normally brash and self-assured, Licht was pale, his shoulders slumped," the American Carnage author wrote. "He scanned the room with anxious eyes. Spotting me, he summoned a breezy chord. 'Well,' Licht said, 'that wasn't boring!'"

It was noted that, of course, Licht had hoped the town hall would bring in sky-high ratings, but he "had come to Manchester with bigger ambitions than lifting CNN out of the viewership basement for a single evening in May."

"He believed that Trump owed his initial political ascent in part to the media's habit of marginalizing conservative views and Republican voters. That needed to change ahead of 2024. Licht wasn't scared to bring a bunch of MAGA enthusiasts onto his set," wrote Alberta. "And he damn sure wasn't scared of Trump. The way to deal with a bully like Trump, Licht told his journalists, was to confront him with facts."

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After viewers turned on the network, it began to set in.

"What was clear was that Licht knew this was bad — very, very bad. Republicans were angry at CNN," Alberta continued. "Democrats were angry at CNN. Journalists were angry at CNN. The only one who wasn't angry, it seemed, was Trump, most likely because he'd succeeded in disgracing the network on its own airwaves."

When asked if the town hall helped his "mission" for the struggling network, Licht appeared to remain optimistic and said that time would soon tell. "Too early to say," he replied.

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