By Karin Tanabe
Chris Licht had been the triple shot of espresso behind MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” since the show’s 2007 debut. Co-creator and former executive producer of the show, he was used to running on adrenaline and Starbucks. So when a doctor told him that a popping sound in his head and subsequent headache were caused by nothing but stress, he believed her.
Then, another doctor, at The George Washington University Hospital, told Licht what was really causing the headache: a brain hemorrhage.
The hemorrhage that almost killed him in 2010 inspired Licht, recently named vice president of programming at CBS News, to write “What I Learned When I Almost Died: How a Maniac TV Producer Put Down His BlackBerry and Started to Live His Life.”
Thursday night, Licht was feted at a book party thrown by Constance Milstein, Random House editor Jon Meacham, Kevin Sheekey and Tammy Haddad at the Jefferson Hotel. Of course, “Morning Joe” co-hosts Joe Scarborough (who’s also a POLITICO columnist) and Mika Brzezinski were there to toast their friend.
When Licht told Scarborough and Brzezinski about the diagnosis, the pair immediately started thinking about who had suffered a similar hemorrhage. The answer for Mika: Joe Biden.
“Mika called the vice president truly for no other reason than they have a relationship and he has been through this,” Licht told POLITICO. Biden made a call to prominent neurosurgeon Vivek Deshmukh, who saw the producer right away. “I got the best guy. I probably would have gotten him either way, but [Biden] certainly did take it upon himself.”
In the hospital for nine days, Licht said he didn’t have time to make a bucket list. He was in “battle mode.” But once he got home, the reality of what had happened set in.
Licht said he had promised his son that nothing bad would happen to him and realized that the hemorrhage had almost gotten in the way. “I looked at him, 2 years old, and got really pissed,” Licht said. “This thing almost made me break that promise.” But with no one to direct his anger toward, he decided not to be mad at all. “It was a really freeing thing,” he said.
The cause of Licht’s brain hemorrhage was never determined, but the lack of answers doesn’t seem to irk him.
“The morning of the hemorrhage, we had had a rough morning over camera angles [at “Morning Joe”]. That had nothing to do with the hemorrhage, by the way,” he said, laughing.
Asked about any other difficult moments on “Morning Joe,” Licht explained how different it is to have an on-air host directly involved on a production level. “The show was Joe’s vision,” explained Licht. “It’s not like he had this vision and handed it over, it’s a continuing process. He is still very involved and very much a part of it. …I’m not sugarcoating it. It is a very stressful thing to have a talent involved in everything. But it makes the show better.”
Now, Licht has walked over to CBS, which he describes as a place “where people are really excited about the future.” He will almost certainly put his stamp on the network’s morning shows first, but he admitted to POLITICO that, as far as CBS shows go, Licht and his wife are “obsessed with ‘The Good Wife.’”
“It’s a very smart show, it’s beautifully written,” he gushed, quickly adding that “60 Minutes” is right up there for him, too.
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