Disgraced former New York governor Elliot Spitzer and Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Kathleen Parker will take over the 8 p.m. prime-time spot on CNN.
The show is set to start this fall. Spitzer’s name has been floating around as a possibility for weeks. Parker has conservative leanings as a syndicated columnist. The show, based on the initial press release, sounds a bit like “Crossfire,” which CNN dumped in 2005 in a deliberate effort to get away from loud, opinion shows, the very shows that have helped bolster its competitors Fox News, MSNBC and sister station HLN.
“Other cable news channels force-feed viewers one narrow, predictable point of view; in contrast, CNN will be offering a lively roundup of all the best ideas – presented by two of the most intelligent and outspoken figures in the country,” said Jon Klein, president of CNN/U.S. in a press release. “Eliot and Kathleen are beholden to no vested interest – in fact, quite the opposite: they are renowned for taking on the most powerful targets and most important causes.”
In a brief interview Wednesday afternoon, Spitzer said he and Parker aspire to be “informative, challenging and entertaining. We don’t plan to be as linear as other shows. We hope to appeal to an audience that thinks about issues from multiple perspectives. The two of us will agree and disagree both civilly while designed to challenge and persuade.”
Though the ratings have shown people are increasingly desirous of hearing points of view that match their ideology, Parker said she still thinks there’s a vast audience who aren’t like that, “who seek broader discussions that provide them a greater understanding of the issues.”
The round-table discussion show, which does not yet have a name, will take over for Campbell Brown, who has left, citing her low ratings. The entire network’s prime-time programming has taken a major hit the past year, fueling speculation that Larry King at 9 p.m. might be a goner, too. (King’s telethon on Monday drew just 600,000 viewers and raised a modest $1.8 million for oil spill victims. WABE-FM locally here raises more in a given year for itself.)
Piers Morgan, the British judge on “America’s Got Talent,” is supposedly in talks with CNN to take over for King at some point.
Spitzer lost his job as New York governor in 2008 after a call-girl scandal but has recently been doing substitute anchoring at MSNBC. Parker won the Pulitzer this year for commentary.
Spitzer said he hopes people will be able to move beyond the scandal and see him as a viable political commentator. “I have addressed those issues openly,” he said.
He said he is not looking beyond the show to get back into politics and declined to respond to this commentary from a New York Observer story about him:
“In order for him to be successful, he has to be exciting and entertaining,” said longtime Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf, who ran Mr. Spitzer’s television advertising in 1994 and 1998, but no longer speaks to him. “If he is exciting and entertaining, he will appear idiotic as a politician who is serious and of consequence. Therefore, if he’s a successful television broadcaster, the probability of him being a serious person in public life again declines precipitously. That’s the danger he faces.”