The CNN rumor mill has been quieted on at least one topic. The cabler has confirmed that it has signed former New York governor Eliot Spitzer and commentator Kathleen Parker to host a roundtable debate show that will fill the 8 p.m. slot now occupied by “Campbell Brown.”
Untitled show, which will bow in the fall, is seen by many as an attempt to create a “Crossfire”-type skein that can compete with Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” and MSNBC’s “Countdown With Keith Olbermann.”
“It’s not ‘Crossfire’ all over again,” Parker said. “Rather than have some artificial format of him vs. her, left vs. right debate, we’re going to have some cocktails and chat. We disagree on a whole bunch of stuff, but we’ll do it in a civil,thoughtful way.”
As for Spitzer, the ex-governor said he hoped to strike a balance between exploiting his notoriety and keeping the focus on the issues debated.
“I guess I’m known for many things,” Spitzer said. “We’ll try to focus on the things we’d like (the audience) to think about — what I’ve done as (New York attorney general) and as governor.”
Andrew Tyndall of TV news monitoring website the Tyndall Report said that the move to hire Spitzer makes sense from a PR perspective. In addition to coming off well on camera, Tyndall observed, “He does have a scandal behind him, so he’s got buzz. One of the big trials when you hire somebody new is that you’ve got to introduce him to the public.”
Parker backed her co-host, referencing his attempt to clean up New York’s still-embarrassing legislature: “People elected Eliot for reasons that are still there and apparent.”
The eponymous host of “Campbell Brown” announced her resignation in May, citing low ratings in a slot devoted to single-sided opinion programming by net competish Fox News Channel and MSNBC and no desire to be forced into “shedding my own journalistic skin” to compete.
With the new skein, CNN attempts something that “Crossfire” tried to achieve: unbiased opinion programming. “I think we need to introduce the idea that we can get to the root of a problem,” said Spitzer, “and — who knows — maybe even change our minds or come to an agreement.”
Tyndall observed that the move reps a return by CNN to the kind of programming that was once popular on CNN and has been successful for its all-news rivals. “If they’re going to revert to this formula, these two people seem like good choices. But they are definitely reverting,” he said.