With the historical health-care vote Sunday, John King’s new CNN political show “John King USA” couldn’t have been timed better, debuting tonight at 7 p.m.
“It’s a fabulous time to start a show covering politics and policy,” said King Friday. “I’ve been itching to get the show started the past couple of weeks.”
He did an online test show that streamed on CNN.com and said it went smoothly. (That’s a screen grab from the show above.) “To do an entire hour without any major problems was a huge plus,” he said.
Rep. Ron Paul was his test guest. Given that Paul was able to raise much of his funds as a presidential candidate for the 2008 presidential campaign via online, he felt Paul would make a good first guest. “He’s a 74 year old innovator in new media politics,” King said. “He was very gracious to come in and say hello.”
Expect health care to dominate tonight’s show and an interview with Vicki Kennedy, the widow of Ted Kennedy. But King said there are plenty of other issues to ponder in the coming weeks, even outside the Beltway. “Schools are closing. Teachers are losing jobs. Governors are cutting programs and raising taxes. City councils and school committees are facing incredibly touch choices because of the recession,” he said. “We’ll be on the road constantly.”
That’s also why the show is called “John King USA.” “A lot of the most interesting political stories are outside of Washington,” he said. I joked that there may be sequels such as “John King Estonia” and “John King Switzerland.” But he simply hopes for “John King Beach Tour.”
Despite falling further behind Fox News and losing ground to MSNBC in evening ratings, John King’s show is a clear sign CNN is sticking with its “hard news” approach during that time period. King’s program is replacing the much more intense and divisive Lou Dobbs, who was let go last year. Dobbs is best known for his tirades against illegal immigration and free trade.
Bob Furnad, a former president at CNN, expressed skepticism a few months back when King’s name was announced. “John’s a fine journalist but he doesn’t stick to the wall,” he said. “He’s not memorable.”
His opinion now hasn’t changed. “We started a show in 1988 called ‘Inside Politics,’ which never drew a particularly large audience.” That’s probably why King’s show does not have the word “politics’ attached to it at all. Furnad’s idea is for them to do a medical news style show on weekdays at 8 p.m., something different: “They need appointment TV.”