CNN Fires Tucker Carlson – `Crossfire’ Likely Canceled
CNN said goodbye to pundit Tucker Carlson on Wednesday, and with him likely the “Crossfire” program that has been the granddaddy of high-volume political debate shows on cable television. CNN will probably fold “Crossfire” into its other programming, perhaps as an occasional segment on the daytime show “Inside Politics,” said Jonathan Klein, who was appointed in late November as chief executive of CNN’s U.S. network. Klein on Wednesday told Carlson, one of the four “Crossfire” hosts, that CNN would not be offering him a new contract.
Carlson has been talking with MSNBC about a prime-time opening replacing Deborah Norville. “I would host any kind of show for (MSNBC chief executive) Rick Kaplan,” said Carlson, whose Friday night PBS show “Tucker Carlson: Unfiltered” resumes this week. He said he enjoyed every minute working for CNN, but that he had told executives last April that he wanted to do something different from “Crossfire.”
The bow-tied wearing conservative pundit got into a public tussle last fall with comic Jon Stewart, who has been critical of cable political programs that devolve into shoutfests. “I guess I come down more firmly in the Jon Stewart camp,” Klein told The Associated Press. He said all of the cable networks, including CNN, have overdosed on programming devoted to arguing over issues. Klein said he wants more substantive programming that is still compelling. “I doubt that when the president sits down with his advisers they scream at him to bring him up to date on all of the issues,” he said. “I don’t know why we don’t treat the audience with the same respect.”
“Crossfire” began in 1982 and was once a mainstay of CNN’s prime time. Pat Buchanan from the right and Michael Kinsley from the left were two of its most prominent hosts. But as Fox News Channel perfected the format with popular hosts Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, “Crossfire” lost favor among CNN executives and was moved to the afternoons in 2002. It averages 447,000 viewers each weekday, down 21 percent from the previous season, according to Nielsen Media Research. Carlson rotates as host with conservative columnist Bob Novak. Paul Begala and James Carville are the left-leaning ringleaders. Klein said he hoped Novak, Begala and Carville would continue with meaningful commentator roles at CNN.
In its heyday, “Crossfire” (or, as Bob Novak puts it, “CROSS fiiiiiiER”) was quite compelling. While it occasionally devolved into shouting, Kinsley and Buchanan were able spokesmen for their viewpoints and engaged in substantive discussion with guests. The follow-on hosts have been pure partisan hacks and the competition for guests has meant that a handful of incredibly shrill people who are always eager to get on television predominated. I haven’t watched the show regularly in years.