NEW YORK — Tucker Carlson is jumping to MSNBC from CNN after newly appointed CNN prexy Jon Klein declined to give the right-wing former “Crossfire” co-host a primetime show.
Klein pitched a latenight show for Carlson to air at 11 p.m., but CNN execs in Atlanta quashed the idea because it meant preempting a profitable rebroadcast of “Lou Dobbs Tonight.”
Carlson, whose contract with CNN expires next week, will replace Deborah Norville in MSNBC’s 9 p.m. timeslot. He had long been courted by NBC Universal prexy Jeff Zucker and MSNBC prexy Rick Kaplan, who signed Carlson and helped develop his career at CNN before moving to MSNBC.
The new show, which has not been named, is expected to debut in February.
“I’m going to MSNBC because I love Kaplan,” Carlson said. “I would host any show Kaplan was producing.”
MSNBC declined to comment except to say, “We think Tucker Carlson is a great journalist.”
Whether he stayed or left CNN, Carlson told CNN executives he would leave “Crossfire” at the end of his contract and that he hoped to host a general-interest news show.
Carlson subbed for Aaron Brown on “NewsNight” during the week the tsunami hit — between Christmas and New Year’s — in a high-profile tryout designed to determine if he could make the transition from “Crossfire” debate team member to primetime news host.
But while CNN made Anderson Cooper the star of its tsunami coverage, Carlson’s stint came and went with little fanfare. Sources said Klein watched Carlson’s performance carefully and weighed whether to offer him a sweetened deal to stay at CNN but couldn’t guarantee him primetime exposure.
In addition to CNN, Carlson is under contract through June with PBS for a weekly half-hour show, “Tucker Carlson: Unfiltered,” which has addressed topics including the death penalty and the war in Iraq.