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Chris Licht replacing Jeff Zucker as CNN chief: "A journalist at heart"

Chris Licht will take over as chief of CNN in the spring, Discovery CEO David Zaslav confirmed on Monday. Licht, the executive vice president of special programming for Paramount and executive producer and showrunner of "The Late Show," was given a sendoff by Stephen Colbert on Monday night.

"I didn't know whether I'd like him, but six years later I love you," Colbert said, addressing Licht, who stood just offstage. "I love you not for what you did for us, because that will continue. I love you for the man you are, the doting, thoughtful and loving father and husband to your family and the dear friend to me for the rest of my life."

Licht, who was appointed executive producer of the "Late Show" in 2016, returns to the news. Before working with Colbert, Licht ran "CBS This Morning" and helped develop "Morning Joe" on MSNBC with host Joe Scarborough.

Chris Licht
Television producer Chris Licht attends The Hollywood Reporter's annual Most Powerful People in Media cocktail reception on April 11, 2019, in New York. Evan Agostini/AP

Licht wrote in a memo to CNN employees that he was "a journalist at heart. While I have enjoyed every minute at the 'Late Show,' I am joining CNN because I feel a genuine pull to return to news at such a critical moment in history."

Zaslav said that Licht will likely replace Jeff Zucker in May when Discovery's corporate takeover of Warner Media, CNN's parent company, is expected to be complete.  

Earlier this month, Zucker resigned amid allegations that he violated the networks policies by failing to disclose a "consensual relationship" with a colleague.

In a memo, Zucker said the relationship had come to light during the network's investigation of former anchor Chris Cuomo, who was fired in December for his role in helping his brother, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, formulate his defense during a sexual harassment scandal. 

CNN's Jeff Zucker resigns over relationship with colleague 02:14

"I was asked about a consensual relationship with my closest colleague, someone I have worked with for more than 20 years," Zucker said in the memo. "I acknowledged the relationship evolved in recent years. I was required to disclose it when it began but I didn't. I was wrong."

Weeks after Zucker's resignation, Allison Gollust, CNN's chief marketing officer, resigned after it was largely reported that she was the colleague Zucker had a relationship with.

WarnerMedia said in a statement to CBS News that a third-party investigation found Zucker, Gollust and former "Cuomo Prime Time" host Chris Cuomo violated company policies, including CNN's News Standards and Practices. The company did not specify which policies the former employees violated. 

CNN fires anchor Chris Cuomo 03:02

In a statement, Gollust accused WarnerMedia of retaliation, saying that the company's statement about her resignation was an attempt to "change the media narrative in the wake of their disastrous handling of the last two weeks."

"It is deeply disappointing that after spending the past nine years defending and upholding CNN's highest standards of journalistic integrity, I would be treated this way as I leave," she said in a statement to CBS News. "But I do so with my head held high, knowing that I gave my heart and soul to working with the finest journalists in the world."

Aimee Picchi contributed reporting.

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