CNN Will Cancel 'Crossfire' and Cut Ties to Commentator
By BILL CARTER
Published: January 6, 2005
NN has ended its relationship with the conservative commentator Tucker Carlson and will shortly cancel its long-running daily political discussion program, "Crossfire," the new president of CNN, Jonathan Klein, said last night.
Mr. Carlson said he had actually quit "Crossfire" last April and had agreed to stay on until his contract expired. He said he had a deal in place for a job as the host of a 9 p.m. nightly talk program on MSNBC, CNN's rival.
One NBC News executive said that no deal had been completed between MSNBC and Mr. Carlson. "Tucker is a great journalist and we are exploring options with him for a 9 p.m. job," said Jeremy Gaines, a spokesman for MSNBC.
"I don't know what CNN is saying," Mr. Carlson said. "But I have no dispute with CNN."
Mr. Klein said the decisions to part company with Mr. Carlson and to end "Crossfire" were not specifically related, because he had decided to drop "Crossfire" regardless of whether Mr. Carlson wanted to stay on.
Mr. Klein said, "We just determined there was not a role here in the way Tucker wanted his career to go. He wanted to host a prime-time show in which he would put on live guests and have spirited debate. That's not the kind of show CNN is going to be doing."
Instead, Mr. Klein said, CNN wants to do "roll-up-your-sleeves storytelling," and he said that was not a role he saw for Mr. Carlson. "There are outlets for the kind of show Tucker wants to do and CNN isn't going to be one of them," he said.
Mr. Klein said he wanted to move CNN away from what he called "head-butting debate shows," which have become the staple of much of all-news television in the prime-time hours, especially at the top-rated Fox News Channel.
"CNN is a different animal," Mr. Klein said. "We report the news. Fox talks about the news. They're very good at what they do and we're very good at what we do."
Mr. Klein specifically cited the criticism that the comedian Jon Stewart leveled at "Crossfire" when he was a guest on the program during the presidential campaign. Mr. Stewart said that ranting partisan political shows on cable were "hurting America."
Mr. Klein said last night, "I agree wholeheartedly with Jon Stewart's overall premise." He said he believed that especially after the terror attacks on 9/11, viewers are interested in information, not opinion.
"Crossfire" may be continued "in small doses" as part of the political coverage on CNN's other programs, Mr. Klein said.
Mr. Klein said he intended to keep CNN's highest-rated program, "Larry King Live," much as it is because Mr. King does not do "head-butting debate" but "personality-oriented television."
The rest of CNN's prime-time lineup will be moving toward reporting the day's events and not discussing them, he said.
Mr. Klein said he had no intention of changing that approach, but he added a caveat. "Not unless the first batch of things we're trying to do don't turn out well," he said.