Fired CNN journalist Brian Stelter aired his final show on Sunday by saying the network ‘must remain strong’ while taking one last dig at network’s new boss Chris Licht.
Stelter touted his ‘media hall monitor’ role as ‘patriotic’ — despite his record low ratings leading CNN to canceling his ‘Reliable Sources’ program last Thursday and prompting his departure.
‘I know it’s not partisan to stand up for decency and democracy and dialogue,’ Stelter said as he signed off for the last time on Sunday.
‘It’s not partisan to stand up to demagogues. It’s required. It’s patriotic. We must make sure we don’t give platforms to those who are lying to our faces. But we also much make sure we are representing the full spectrum of debate and representing what is going on in this country and this world.’
Stelter went on to tell viewers that the need to hold CNN and other news outlets accountable.
Fired CNN journalist Brian Stelter ended his final show on Sunday by saying the network ‘must remain strong’ and celebrated his ‘media hall monitor’ role as ‘patriotic’
Stelter told his viewers that the need to hold CNN and other news outlets accountable
‘That’s why CNN needs to be strong. That’s why I believe CNN will be strong. You viewers at home — it’s on you. CNN must remain strong. I know the 4,500 staffers are going to do their part to make it stronger than ever. But it’s going to be on you to hold CNN accountable, and not just CNN. You got to hold your local paper accountable. You got to hold your local digital outlet accountable. It’s on us. We are all members of the media, all helping to make it better.’
Stelter, the chief media correspondent and host of Reliable Sources for the last nine years, is the second casualty of the network after CNN’s new CEO and chairman, Licht took over earlier this year.
Jeffrey Toobin, CNN’s legal analyst, announced last week that he would not be returning to the network after his vacation.
Some were speculating online that other anchors could be next, with Don Lemon, a lightning rod for the right, and Jim Acosta, being mentioned.
However, Lemon and Acosta are expected to stay at the network – for now – an individual with knowledge of the plan revealed to TheWrap on Sunday, despite the recent decision to move away from opinion broadcasting and return to its ‘more centrist’ reporting roots.
The source said there has been no plan set by Licht.
‘No decisions are being made’ yet, a CNN insider said, adding only that Licht is ‘weeks away’ from announcing major programming changes.
Some were speculating online that other anchors could be next, with Don Lemon, a lightning rod for the right, being mentioned.
Acosta, the chief domestic correspondent, has also been rumored to be next on the chopping board for his reporting style as he challenges Republicans who defend denying the integrity of the 2020 presidential election.
Insiders at Warner Bros. Discovery told TheWrap they have not been advised of a plan to eliminate either journalist.
Some were speculating online that other anchors could be next, with Don Lemon, a lightning rod for the right, being mentioned
Acosta, the chief domestic correspondent, has also been rumored to be next on the chopping board for his reporting style as he challenges Republicans who defend denying the integrity of the 2020 presidential election
Brian Stelter was ousted from CNN amidst a shakeup at the network by new CEO Chris Licht
An insider told TheWrap that Licht wants journalists who aren’t affiliated with either side.
‘It’s not a good brand position to be the opposite of Fox News,’ the insider said. ‘He wants to be tough and no bulls—, but not affiliated with a side. It’s fair to say he doesn’t like the CNN vs. Fox thing.’
The shakeup comes after Warner Bros Discovery board member and major shareholder John Malone said in a CNBC interview in 2021 that CNN should return to nonpartisan journalism once under Discovery’s control.
‘I would like to see CNN evolve back to the kind of journalism that it started with, and actually have journalists, which would be unique and refreshing,’ Malone said at the time.
Stelter called out Malone in February, accusing the billionaire of criticizing CNN without actually watching it.
‘Malone’s comments stoked fears that Discovery might stifle CNN journalists and steer away from calling out indecency and injustice,’ Stelter wrote in his newsletter at the time.
Stelter’s departure comes the week after Toobin also announced he would not be returning to the network, and as Licht has made it clear that more significant changes are on the way.
‘I want to acknowledge that this is a time of significant change, and I know that many of you are unsettled,’ Licht told his staff, according to a report by The Hollywood Reporter, ‘There will be more changes, and you might not understand it or like it.’
CNN’s new boss Chris Licht is currently working to revive the scandal-hit network, with Stelter being the second to get the chop after Jeffrey Toobin – who said he resigned, but is thought to have been forced out
Stelter, pictured, has become the second casualty of new CNN boss Chris Licht after failing to report the ‘open secret’ affair between Licht’s predecessor, Jeff Zucker, and staffer Allison Gollust
Jeffrey Toobin returned to the air in June 2021 after an eight-month suspension, but announced last week that he would not be returning after his vacation
Some staff members expressed concerns that Stelter’s departure from the company is an indicator for the removal of other anchors.
‘I think people are legitimately sad that Brian is leaving,’ someone familiar to the situation told Hollywood Reporter. ‘He was a big presence at the network, but (we) understand that Chris has to put his stamp on the network.’
Stelter confirmed in a statement to NPR that he would be stepping down from the show, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in March.
He added that he was grateful for the show and his team’s examination of ‘the media, truth and the stories that shape our world.’
‘It was a rare privilege to lead a weekly show focused on the press at a time when it has never been more consequential.’
In his call, which echoed his warning to his staff, Licht complimented Stelter’s contributions to CNN while criticizing outside media speculating how the show will move forward.
Stelter had more than three years left on his contract
‘You heard me say in my first town hall that I am going to make decisions slower than some would like,’ Licht said in a June memo.
‘I know this organization has been through tremendous change over the last four months, which is why I am approaching this process slowly and thoughtfully as we look at all parts of the operation.
‘We will continue to realign where it makes sense to best serve our people and the business.’
Stelter’s final show aired on Sunday morning.
He also taped the show’s final podcast, which is currently available online as of Friday morning.
All of the recent news to the changes at CNN ride alongside a ratings nosedive, with it plunging to less than half of its rival on Fox News and averaging just 787,000 this year.
Stelter’s show struggled, however, in its ratings war with Fox News.
Fox’s rival show, MediaBuzz, has averaged 1.5 million viewers this year, while Reliable Sources had 787,000.
Reliable Sources is having its lowest-rated year since 2015 and has lost 26 percent of its total audience versus last year.
It has shed 34 percent among the 25-54 age range, and 31 percent in the 18-49 demographic.