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2005-01-11

CNN Fires Crossfire, Tucker Carlson Moves to MSNBC

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The new president of CNN, Jonathan Klein, announced last week the network has ended its relationship with conservative commentator Tucker Carlson and will soon cancel its long-running program, Crossfire. We hear an excerpt of Crossfire featuring Jon Stewart of the The Daily Show and speak with Steve Rendall of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. [includes rush transcript]

The new president of CNN, Jonathan Klein, announced last week the network has ended its relationship with conservative commentator Tucker Carlson and will soon cancel its long-running program, Crossfire.

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 nightly talk program on rival MSNBC.

Klein said "[Tucker Carlson] 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, 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 Fox News. Klein said "CNN is a different animal. We report the news. Fox talks about the news."

Klein specifically cited the criticism that comedian Jon Stewart of The Daily Show leveled at Crossfire when he was a guest on the program during the presidential campaign. Stewart said that ranting partisan political shows on cable were "hurting America."

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The new President of CNN, Jonathan Klein, announced last week the network has ended its relationship with conservative commentator Tucker Carlson and will soon cancel its long-running daily political (if you can call it) discussion program, Crossfire. Carlson said he’d 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 host of a nightly talk program on MSNBC. Klein said, quote, "Tucker Carlson 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, 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 Fox News. Klein said, quote, "CNN is a different animal. We report the news, Fox talks about the news." Klein specifically cited the criticism that comedian Jon Stewart of the Daily Show leveled at Crossfire when he was a guest on the program during the presidential campaign. Jon Stewart said that ranting partisan political shows on cable are "hurting America."

JON STEWART: I made a special effort to come on the show today because I have privately, amongst my friends and also in occasional newspapers and television shows, mentioned this show as being … bad. And — and I wanted to — I felt that that wasn’t fair and I should come here and tell you that I don’t — it’s not so much that it’s bad, as it’s hurting America. So I wanted to come here today — {inaudible]

JON STEWART: Here’s what I wanted to tell you guys.

TUCKER CARLSON: Yeah.

JON STEWART: Stop. Stop, stop, stop, stop, hurting America. —- And come work for us, because we as the people -—

TUCKER CARLSON: How do you pay?

JON STEWART: The people — not well.

PAUL BEGALA: Better than CNN, I’m sure.

JON STEWART: But you can sleep at night. See, the thing is we need your — your help. Right now, you’re helping the politicians, and the corporations, and we’re left out there to mow our lawns.

PAUL BEGALA: By beating up on them? You just said we’re too rough on them when they make mistakes.

JON STEWART: No, no, no, you’re not too rough on them. You’re part of their strategies. You’re partisan, what do you call it, hacks?

TUCKER CARLSON: Wait, Jon, let me tell you something valuable that I think we do that I’d like to see you...

JON STEWART: Something valuable?

TUCKER CARLSON: Yeah, no —- well, it’s nice when -—

JON STEWART: I would like to hear it.

TUCKER CARLSON: And I’ll tell you. When politicians come on —

JON STEWART: Yeah.

TUCKER CARLSON: It’s nice to get them to try and answer the question. In order to do that, we try to ask them pointed questions. I want to contrast our questions with some questions you asked John Kerry — P>*JON STEWART:* If you want to compare your show to a comedy show you’re more than welcome to.

TUCKER CARLSON: No, no, but here’s — No, no, here’s — here’s the point

JON STEWART: If that’s your goal —

TUCKER CARLSON: No, it’s not.

JON STEWART: I wouldn’t aim for us, I’d aim for Seinfeld.

TUCKER CARLSON: Here’s the problem, Kerry won’t —

JON STEWART: That’s a very good show.

TUCKER CARLSON: Kerry won’t come on this show. He will come on your show. Let me suggest why wants to come on your show.

JON STEWART: Well, we have civilized discourse.

TUCKER CARLSON: Well here — Here’s an example of civilized discourse. Here are three of the questions you asked John Kerry.

JON STEWART: Yeah.

TUCKER CARLSON: You have a chance to interview the Democratic nominee, you ask him a question such as, quote, "How are you holding up?" "Is it hard not to take the attacks personally?" "Have you ever flip-flopped" Et cetera, et cetera. Didn’t you feel like, you got the chance to interview the guy, why not ask him a real question, instead of just suck up to him?

JON STEWART: Yeah, 'How you holding up?' is a real suck-up, and I actually was giving him a hot stone massage as —

TUCKER CARLSON: It sounded that way.

JON STEWART: As we were doing it. You know, it’s interesting to hear you talk about —

TUCKER CARLSON: I felt sparks between you.

JON STEWART: — my responsibility to the — you know, I didn’t realize that — and maybe this explains quite a bit.

TUCKER CARLSON: No, the opportunity.

JON STEWART: Is that the news organizations look to Comedy Central for their queues on integrity.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Jon Stewart on CNN’s Crossfire, with Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson who was questioning him. Let’s just go to one other clip from this program.

JON STEWART: Now, this is theater. I mean, it’s —

TUCKER CARLSON: No, no.

JON STEWART: How old are you?

TUCKER CARLSON: Thirty-five.

JON STEWART: And you wear a bow tie?

TUCKER CARLSON: Yeah, I do.

JON STEWART: So, this is —

TUCKER CARLSON: I know, I know. You’re right.

JON STEWART: So this is theater.

TUCKER CARLSON: Let me just — Come on, come on.

JON STEWART: Listen, I’m not suggesting that you’re not a smart guy, because those are not easy to tie. But the thing is —

TUCKER CARLSON: They’re difficult.

JON STEWART: — that this — You’re doing theater when you should be doing debate, which would be great.

PAUL BEGALA: We do do debate.

TUCKER CARLSON: No, it’s just not true.

JON STEWART: It’s not honest. What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery. And I’ll tell you why I — I know it

TUCKER CARLSON: You had John Kerry on your show and you sniff his throne and you’re accusing us of partisan hackery?

JON STEWART: Absolutely.

TUCKER CARLSON: You’ve got to be kidding me.

JON STEWART: You’re on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls. What’s wrong with you?

TUCKER CARLSON: I’m just saying there’s no reason for you — you have this marvelous opportunity not to be the guy’s butt boy to go ahead and be his butt boy. Come on! It’s embarrassing.

JON STEWART: I was absolutely his butt boy. I was so far — You would not believe what he ate two weeks ago. You know, the interesting thick that I have is —- you have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you failed miserably -—

TUCKER CARLSON: You need to get a job in a journalism school, I think.

JON STEWART: You need to go to one. The thing that I want to say is, when you have people on for just knee-jerk reactionary talk —

TUCKER CARLSON: I thought you were going to be funny. Come on. Be funny.

JON STEWART: No. No. I’m not going to be your monkey.

PAUL BEGALA: Go ahead. Go ahead.

JON STEWART: I watch your show every day, and it kills me.

TUCKER CARLSON: I can tell that you love it.

JON STEWART: It’s so —- Oh, it’s so painful to watch. You know, because we need what you do. This is such a great opportunity you have here to actually get politicians -—

TUCKER CARLSON: Is this really Jon Stewart? What is this, anyway?

JON STEWART: — off of their marketing and strategy. Yeah, it’s someone who watches your show and cannot take it anymore.

AMY GOODMAN: Jon Stewart on CNN ’s Crossfire, which has been fired by CNN. Crossfire, will be no longer. Steve Rendall, your comment.

STEVE RENDALL: Well, I think Jon Stewart may have embarrassed CNN in that appearance; but I think that new-President-of-CNN, Klein’s protestations that they’re not going to do head-butting anymore on the air is a little bit too much. I mean, CNN profited from Crossfire, for about — since 1982 it was on. The main problem with the debate on CNN is they don’t really allow progressive voices on. We documented this at FAIR, that debate at CNN, whether it’s the ad hoc debates that appear in news shows or the CNN debate, pits somebody from the center against somebody from the right. As far as Tucker Carlson’s career, it’s hard to — Well, let me put it this way: When Tucker Carlson joined Crossfire, the show was in prime time. He rode it down into the afternoon. He hasn’t — He and his other co-hosts have not exactly been a success. But failure, it is no — is — is no disadvantage in cable news. You can — If you’re on the right, you can fall and rise and fall and rise again several times, and I think this is why MSNBC, a failed cable network, has decided to pick him up and run him the hour —- in the hour before Joe Scarborough’s show, which is another very hard right head-butting show, if you will, which will leave MSNBC with arguably a more right-wing prime-time lineup than Fox. Not that they’re going to succeed. They haven’t succeeded before when they’ve tried the same thing. They’ve hired tons of right— wing pundits at MSNBC, and they still can’t seem to crack —

AMY GOODMAN: And of course, when they had Phil Donahue on, who was their most successful program right before the war, right before the invasion, they fired him with that secret NBC memo saying, 'We don't want an anti-war face when the other networks are flying the American flag.’

STEVE RENDALL: Exactly, this is why if — This is why you can continue to fail as somebody on the right, somebody who is more or less in favor of the war, although Tucker Carlson has voiced some concerns in that way. But, yes, Donahue, the secret — the secret investigation that NBC did into MSNBC’s Donahue Show said that this was a show that could associate us with the anti-war left, and we cannot — we cannot risk that at a time when all of our competitors are waving — are waving the flag.

AMY GOODMAN: Of course, Tucker Carlson, while he will be on MSNBC is also on PBS as is the Wall Street Journal editorial page running a program. So, you have Bill Moyers leaving PBS, his show being cut to half an hour and two more shows from an extremely conservative point of view —- I mean, even for Wall Street Journal reporters, the editorial page -—

STEVE RENDALL: This is a pattern that FAIR has documented throughout the years, that right-wing commentary on PBS — and this has to do — Does it have to do with the fact that PBS producers and executives are conservatives? No. It’s because PBS has been under relentless assault for 30 years from the right, being labeled as liberal media, and so what they do is they bend over backwards to the right.

AMY GOODMAN: Steve Rendall, I want to thank you for being with us. Steve Rendall, Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, talking about the state of the media today.

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