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CNN host Brian Stelter used his final show to rebuke new bosses who axed him

August 22, 2022, 3:20 PM UTC
Brian Stelter, pictured in 2018, has left CNN.
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for CNN

Many people dream of giving their bosses a few choice words—but not many people get the chance to do it on live television.

Brian Stelter, the host of CNN’s long-running media analysis show Reliable Sources, signed off from his last-ever episode on Sunday with a monologue that seemed to take aim at the network’s newly appointed bosses—and their aim to make CNN’s coverage more politically neutral.

Stelter’s exit from the network was announced last week, with his departure coinciding with the cancellation of Reliable Sources, which aired on CNN for 30 years.

The cancellation of Reliable Sources and Stelter’s firing from the network came just four months after Chris Licht—who is pursuing a plan to make CNN less partisan—was appointed the new CEO.  

Under Licht’s leadership, CNN is reportedly monitoring its program anchors to make sure they “adjust to a less partisan tone and strategy.”

But it seems no one was monitoring Stelter’s final script.

“No one from CNN management has reviewed my script ahead of time,” Stelter said at the end of Sunday’s final episode of the show before launching into his closing speech.

“It is not partisan to stand up for decency and democracy and dialogue,” he argued. “It is not partisan to stand up to demagogues—it’s required, it’s patriotic. We must make sure we do not give a platform to those who are lying to our faces.”

Acknowledging the media “must also make sure we are representing the full spectrum of debate,” Stelter called on viewers at home “to hold CNN accountable” for its coverage.

“You viewers at home…it’s on you,” he said. “CNN must remain strong… And not just CNN, you’ve got to hold your local paper accountable, you’ve got to hold your local digital outlet accountable—it’s on all of us.”

Fortune has reached out to CNN for comment.

After Stelter’s departure was announced last week, Licht told CNN staff that the network was undergoing “significant change” and warned that “there will be more changes, and you might not understand it or like it,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Back in June, Axios reported that to conservative critics, some of CNN’s on-air personalities—including Stelter and Jim Acosta—had “become the face of the network’s liberal shift” in recent years.  

At the end of last year, billionaire media investor John Malone told CNBC that he “would like to see CNN evolve back to the kind of journalism that it started with.”

Malone is chairman of Liberty Media, a major shareholder in Discovery, which—like CNN—is owned by Warner Bros. Discovery.

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