‘I Told You So’: Fired CNN Head Chris Licht Should Have Listened to Stephen Colbert
Embattled CNN chief Chris Licht got the boot this morning, an inevitable conclusion to a months-long debacle involving plunging ratings, an ill-conceived town hall with Donald Trump and a damning Atlantic article detailing myriad failings. And to think it all could have been avoided if he’d just listened to his late-night comedy boss Stephen Colbert. When Licht told Colbert he was thinking about taking the CNN gig, the comedy host had pretty succinct advice: “Definitely don’t go do that.”
What the hell was Licht even thinking by taking the job? Sure, he had journalism background producing the relatively low-stakes Morning Joe over at MSNBC, but CNN was another beast entirely. Who needs that headache? “Oh, man, you used to be in news, remember?” Colbert recalled telling him. “You said this was so much nicer — 12 weeks off, good pay, laugh for an hour every night. Everyone is really nice; you can say anything you want, and nobody leaks it. It’s great.”
Colbert wasn’t the only funny newsman who saw doom in Licht’s future. Jon Stewart was a guest on Morning Joe around the time that Licht announced he was leaving Colbert. “Oh yeah, Chris Licht, he’s going to take over CNN,” observed Stewart. “And I look forward to him coming back to Colbert in about three months.” Licht lasted longer than Stewart predicted, but not by much.
Unlike his CNN tenure, Licht was successful at late-night comedy, joining Colbert in 2016 and helping the show overtake Jimmy Fallon for the number one spot within a year. When Licht eventually abandoned the Late Show ship, Colbert spoke to his old producer nearly every Friday, he told the New York Times. And each time, Colbert began with the same four words. They’re more apt today than ever before: “I told you so.”