The English Patients

CNN’s new chairman and C.E.O., Mark Thompson, and the Post’s presumptive new C.E.O., Will Lewis. Photos: Noam Galai/Getty Images; Mike Coppola/Getty Images
Dylan Byers
November 3, 2023

On Thursday night, CNN alumni Jeff Zucker, Allison Gollust, and Don Lemon joined a small group of friends at The Polo Bar, in Midtown Manhattan, to celebrate the birthday of Jay Sures, the UTA superagent who represents a broad swath of CNN talent, and who recently invited the same trifecta to attend his intimate wedding celebration on a yacht off the Amalfi Coast. Seated across the restaurant, albeit not at his usual table, was Zucker’s successor Chris Licht, who must have thought he was witnessing the manifestation of all his worst, most deeply held suspicions. 

Since Licht’s defenestration five months ago, he has told multiple people he suspects that Zucker, Gollust, Sures and Lemon actively and collaboratively conspired to undermine him. One can only imagine what was going through his mind as Dr. Jill Biden, Michael Ovitz, Rita Wilson, Kelly Clarkson, and others stopped by Sures’s table to offer hugs and well wishes.

Alas, the whole scene felt like a postscript to a story that took place long ago, the final denouement that rolls after the credits. The drama that engulfed CNN upon Zucker’s dramatic ouster, in February 2022, and intensified over the course of Licht’s disastrous, thirteen-month tenure—the insecure and tone-deaf leadership, the layoffs, the Lemon debacle, the Trump town hall—now seems a distant memory. In an interview with the FT on Friday, Zucker declined to weigh in on his successor’s tenure, or the infamous Atlantic nuclear weapon: “I don’t think there’s anything I can add to everything that’s been said about that already,” he noted, before adding a bon mot related to that god awful pre-dawn training scene. “I felt,” Zucker said, “that I had to go to the gym.” (Zucker also dismissed the pervasive rumor that he ever wanted to buy CNN, another one of Licht’s recurring suspicions: “Zero truth to it,” he said. “Zero.”)