CNN took the first step in rebuilding its struggling primetime lineup by naming former New York governor Eliot Spitzer and conservative columnist Kathleen Parker as the co-hosts of a new roundtable discussion program. The still to be named show will replace Campbell Brown in the 8 p.m. ET hour in the early fall. Spitzer resigned from his office in 2008 amid a sex scandal that revealed he used prostitutes. Is America's cable news audience ready to embrace him as a liberal commentator sitting across from the Pulitzer Prize winner Parker? The Biz chatted with the pair shortly after the new show was announced.
Eliot Spitzer to make a comeback with new CNN program
TV Guide: We know that commentators with strong points of view drive viewers to cable news. Who will your constituency be on CNN?
Parker: I don't know how many millions of people are watching television, but there must be a few left over who aren't finding what they are looking far. Some of these shows are geared to an ideological point of view and our hope is we can offer an alternative to that—conversation that leads to perhaps unexpected conclusion. We are not going to come in as ideological advocates but rather people who are intellectually curious and want to have an interesting conversation.
Spitzer: We are looking for an audience that believes deeply, cares deeply but also wants to think and be challenged. That element of being challenged by both fact and argument in a way that is civil and entertaining — that's what we're looking for.
Parker: I don't think anybody can say my positions can be tied to a talking points memo not to use a term that's well known. I come at it as someone who is looking for the answer and I don't always find it where I think I will.
Spitzer: Nothing about either of us is reflexive.
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TV Guide: How is this show not Crossfire?
Parker: It's not going to be artificially created as an oppositional show. We'll have other guests as well as some regular contributors who will help guide the conversation. It's not going to exactly be the left versus right.
Spitzer: It's going to be more like sitting around the kitchen table or dining room table at the end of the day and saying "Hey, what's important?"
TV Guide: Eliot Spitzer — is there still a residue among some of the public regarding the circumstances under which you resigned that you're going to have to get pastfor people to like you on TV?
Spitzer: I hope people will look at the show and judge it on its merits. I hope they will look at me for the entirety of my career understand what I've done as attorney general and governor and what led to my resignation about which I've spoken very openly and honestly. I hope they look at the show and get pulled into it. That's all I can ask that's all I can hope for.
TV Guide: When the public sees on the street how does the public respond to you? Have New Yorkers forgiven you?
Spitzer: There is a sense of in the public of giving people a shot and a second chance. I think the public knows I worked my heart out to do what I could as attorney general and governor. I was open about where I made missteps. Folks appreciate that and they want to move on they look forward.
Parker: There is nobody better at forgiving than Americans.
TV Guide: Is there anything that you know from the start that you profoundly disagree over?
Parker: I don't know if we figured that out yet.
Spitzer: I don't know — what do you drink?
Parker: I'm a wine drinker. What about you?
Spitzer: I'm Scotch. So there you go.
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