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CNN Cancels Reza Aslan’s ‘Believer’ — And That Might Be A Warning to The Network’s Other Hosts

Reza Aslan won't be investigating belief for CNN any more, but the news of "Believer's" cancellation is troubling for other reasons.

Reza Aslan, “Believer”

CNN

CNN announced today that it will not be picking up a second season of “Believer,” hosted by author and religious studies scholar Reza Aslan. In the first season of “Believer,” Aslan — who was a consulting producer for “The Leftovers,” contributing insight into the show’s religious themes — explored belief systems ranging from Vodou to ultra-Orthodox Judaism to Scientology (which he told Vulture has gotten a bad rap).

READ MORE: Kathy Griffin Had a Right to Do Her Trump Photo Shoot, and Hollywood Should Have Defended It, Say Key Showrunners

But that wasn’t the controversy which caused trouble for Aslan. “Believer” being dropped by CNN comes just days after Aslan, in an emotional moment, called Donald Trump “a piece of shit” on Twitter. He later followed up with an apology:

But the damage was done. CNN’s official statement did not make any mention of Aslan’s Twitter behavior as a reason for the show’s cancellation, but Aslan seemed to indicate that this was the case in his own statement (not surprisingly, posted on Twitter).

“In these politically charged times, the tenor of our nation’s discourse has become complicated, and I recognize that CNN needs to protect its brand as an unbiased news outlet,” Aslan says.

This isn’t the first recent example of CNN protecting said brand — the cable news network did just fire Kathy Griffin following a controversial photo shoot. But it serves as a sobering message for other CNN on-air talent to be careful what they might say on social media.

Since the 2016 election, hosts like W. Kamau Bell (“United Shades of America”), Anthony Bourdain (“Parts Unknown”) and Lisa Ling (“This Is Life”) haven’t been quiet about their political views, as seen below:

Of course, there’s a notable lack of profanity in those tweets, and they don’t take as extreme a position against the current administration that showrunners like Mike Schur or David Simon have demonstrated of late.

Still, it speaks to edgy times, where one rough joke by an “SNL” writer can get her fired and one off-color joke on “The Late Show” can lead to an FCC investigation. It’s always good advice to be careful on social media, but the line between good taste and censorship isn’t easily defined — and grows even more complicated when major corporations choose to prioritize their brands over free speech.

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