John Harwood is out as the company’s new head signals shift away from liberal-leaning political coverage
“A White House correspondent for CNN – whose new leader wants the channel to adopt what he considers a more politically neutral voice to its coverage – has departed the network after calling Donald Trump “a dishonest demagogue” on the air.
John Harwood announced his exit from CNN on his Twitter account Friday, a day after he spoke favorably of a nationally televised speech by Joe Biden in which the president said that Republican forces loyal to his Oval Office predecessor, Trump, imperiled American democracy.
“The core point [Biden] made in that political speech about a threat to democracy is true,” Harwood said on CNN after the address, which was in primetime. “Now that is something that is not easy for us as journalists to say.”
“We’re brought up to believe there’s two different political parties with different points of view, and we don’t take sides in honest disagreements between them. But that’s not what we are talking about. These are honest disagreements. The Republican party right now is led by a dishonest demagogue.”
By midday Friday, the 65-year-old Harwood tweeted that he was out at CNN.
“Personal news: Today’s my last day at CNN,” said Harwood, who added that he has been “lucky” to serve other prominent American media outlets like the St Petersburg Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Times and NBC. “Proud of the work. Thanks to my colleagues.
“Look forward to figuring out what’s next.”
CNN didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Harwood’s departure was motivated by his remarks supporting Biden’s speech and criticizing Trump. Network officials instead issued a statement saying, “We appreciate John’s work covering the White House, and we wish him all the best.”
Harwood had two years still left on his contract at CNN when he announced his exit, veteran media reporter Dylan Byers said later Friday.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, which cited an anonymous source with insight into the situation, Harwood learned “last month” that he was out at the channel.
New leadership took over at CNN in April, having been appointed by its owners, Warner Brothers Discovery. CNN chief Chris Licht – who inherited his post after Jeff Zucker’s departure in February – has been open about wanting to tone down its shows’ opinions and return to an older school, straighter and in his interpretation less overtly liberal style of reporting.
Harwood’s exit comes after the 21 August departure of Brian Stelter, host of CNN’s media affairs show, Reliable Sources, which was canceled after 30 years on the airwaves.
Stelter was doggedly criticized by conservative viewers over his coverage of the Trump administration, which – among many other things – tried to sow doubt about the validity of the results in the 2020 election that he lost to Biden.
Stelter, on his last show, also invoked the word “demagogue” as he verbally rebuked CNN’s new brass.
“It is not partisan to stand up to demagogues,” said Stelter, who also reportedly had multiple years left on his CNN contract at the time of his departure. “It’s required – it’s patriotic.”
Harwood joined CNN in January 2020, about a year before Trump supporters mounted a deadly attack on the US Capitol in a desperate attempt to prevent the congressional certification of the former president’s electoral defeat to Biden.
Before that, he was the chief Washington DC correspondent for CNBC, where in 2019 he drew significant attention for another remark that was critical of Trump and his Republican supporters.
Harwood at that time had said that Trump and the Republicans who buoyed him to the Oval Office in 2016 were “fundamentally broken”, making them particularly challenging to cover for journalists who operated in good faith.“