Guess CNN took Jon Stewart’s critique of Crossfire to heart. Three months after the Daily Show host visited the CNN show’s right-vs.-left panelists and told them on the air that their show had hurt America by helping to turn news into wrestling, CNN/U.S. president Jonathan Klein said Wednesday that he agreed with Stewart and was canceling the 22-year-old show. Moreover, Klein said, he wasn’t renewing the contract of Tucker Carlson, the bow-tied Crossfire co-host who’d been Stewart’s chief antagonist. Don’t cry for Carlson, though; he’s expected to segue into a primetime gig at rival MSNBC.
Stewart recently told EW, ”My point on Crossfire was: News can be one of two things — noise or clarity. They’re noise. Why not try clarity?” Klein, who took over in November, a few weeks after Stewart’s on-air dustup with Carlson and his co-hosts, agreed, telling the Associated Press, ”I guess I come down more firmly in the Jon Stewart camp.” Klein told the Washington Post, ”I think he made a good point about the noise level of these types of shows, which does nothing to illuminate the issues of the day,” characterizing Crossfire as ”a bunch of guys screaming at each other.”
Two decades ago, Crossfire’s argument format was innovative cable news programming, but now the show is one of the lower-rated among a glut of cable news commentary shows featuring dueling pundits. Klein said that Crossfire would live on only as an occasional brief segment during afternoon news show Inside Politics, and that the other three hosts (liberals James Carville and Paul Begala and conservative Robert Novak) would remain, joined by a conservative to be named later.
CNN’s parting with Carlson is apparently amicable; the 35-year-old announced back in April that he was itching to leave Crossfire. He’s been moonlighting for a few months on PBS, which gave him a Friday night show called Tucker Carlson: Unfiltered. As late as last week, when CNN let him fill in for Aaron Brown on the 10 p.m. show NewsNight, the network was hoping to keep him in some capacity. Ultimately, Klein told the New York Times, there was no place for Carlson, who envisioned himself hosting a primetime commentary show where he would preside over debating guests, precisely the kind of show that Klein is trying to get rid of in favor of more news reporting. For his part, Carlson told the Times, ”I have no dispute with CNN.”
Carlson told the Post that what drew him to MSNBC was the channel’s president, Rick Kaplan, who hired him for the Crossfire job back when he ran CNN. ”I can’t wait to work for Rick Kaplan,” Carlson said. ”He’s a great producer. I would host an infomercial if he would produce it.” Carlson’s MSNBC show won’t be an infomercial, but he will replace departing 9 p.m. host Deborah Norville. That will place him opposite interviewer Larry King on CNN and dueling pundits Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes on the Fox News Channel.