Here’s who should (and should not) replace Chris Cuomo at CNN

Chris Cuomo got his walking papers from CNN on Saturday after text messages revealed he was working with the staff of then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) to discredit credible sexual harassment accusations against his embattled brother. 

Yet the telling blow to Cuomo’s career may have been not only the damning texts but a report in the New York Times over the weekend, stating that the former anchor may have #MeToo allegations of his own on his ledger after a younger female staffer leveled sexual harassment allegations against him.  

Add it all up, and Cuomo’s days in television news media may be over. 

Yes, other media figures have made comebacks from scandals, but sexual harassment allegations are a third rail to most network executives. Throw in that Andrew Cuomo’s legal problems are only getting worse, and the Cuomo name has become too toxic to touch. 

So, who replaces Cuomo at 9 p.m., one of the most important time-slots at any network? Here are four possibilities:

Jim Acosta: The guy who insisted he’s tough on both sides while simply pursuing facts as an objective White House correspondent has revealed himself to be as partisan as anyone in cable news. His weekend program is almost exclusively devoted to bashing conservatives while attempting to be edgy by swearing on the air in an effort to generate easy headlines. 

If CNN wants a full hour of highly-partisan content marinated in pre-rehearsed snark that far-left twitterers will gobble up and regurgitate, then Acosta is their guy.

Erin Burnett: The former CNBC host has been anchoring in the 7 p.m. CNN slot since 2013, making her an easy choice to move up to 9 p.m., given audience familiarity and two decades of experience on a national level. 

CNN has a notable lack of female hosts on-air, which reportedly is an issue among more than a few staffers at the network. Currently from 4 p.m. to midnight, Burnett is the only female presence, with two males – Jake Tapper and Don Lemon – awarded two hours despite not performing particularly well in their respective time-slots when looking at audience share numbers.

Former CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin stated after Cuomo’s firing that a woman should occupy the 9 p.m. slot. And, given how thin the network’s bench is when it comes to women who host their own shows, Burnett appears to be the only logical choice. 

 

“Yes we need more seats at the table … But we also need to build a better, more inclusive table,” Baldwin also tweeted. “And CNN primetime has been dominated by male hosts. Y’all, it’s nearly 2022. Wouldn’t *you* like to see a woman successfully lead in primetime?”

Will CNN embrace the inclusivity Baldwin is calling for by moving up Burnett? 

Jake Tapper: The odds-on favorite to take the reins here. But one has to question whether the Tapper brand is better suited for afternoons and Sunday mornings rather than primetime. 
 
Charisma and infotainment do matter to a certain extent in cable news in the evening hours. And Tapper’s numbers at 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. don’t inspire confidence that he can deliver anything resembling a decent audience. “The Lead with Jake Tapper” has had difficulty drawing even 700,000 viewers lately, or 2.5 million fewer than its competition on Fox. That matters to those making programming decisions. 

Van Jones: The former Obama official is respected by many on both sides of the political and media aisles. Agree or disagree with Jones, the pundit and host of the “The Van Jones Show” is still authentic and likable, and he potentially could attract Republicans to a network that has arguably gone as far to the left as MSNBC. 

Most importantly, Jones is fearless. He rightly gave then-President Trump credit for signing a bipartisan criminal justice bill into law and got eviscerated by the left for having the audacity to praise Trump. Recently, when Jones called out President Biden for failing to deliver on his campaign promises, the left lost its mind again.  

“Right now the Democratic Party is looking over the edge of a cliff,” Jones said, “and there is a lot of fear and concern, and you’re not seeing that strong Joe Biden that I think people were expecting to get stuff done, to get the next round of stuff done.”

 

 

 

Regardless of what progressives say, Jones – despite being liberal himself – will continue to largely call balls and strikes. That makes him unpredictable. That makes him interesting. And that makes him a fine choice to replace a predictable Chris Cuomo.  

Don’t expect CNN to make any changes before the ball drops for 2022, however. Michael Smerconish – who would be a decent replacement choice, too, given his common-sense and experience – will hold down the fort this week. After that, rotating hosts likely will continue to be deployed, to get a sense of who is and isn’t resonating. Such “bake-offs” are common in this industry. 

Either way, CNN will gladly say goodbye to 2021, a year that saw it lose almost 80 percent of its audience in many time-slots since the beginning of the year. Imagine that: 8-out-of-10 viewers … gone.  

This 9 p.m. decision will be a good guide to where CNN looks to go next. It’s largest shareholder, John Malone of Liberty Media, recently said he’d like to see CNN become the CNN of old, with news-gathering and journalism valued over pious, partisan opinion. 

 

 

“The only constant in life is change,” the old saying goes. Changes are certainly coming to CNN, starting with 9 o’clock at night. 

Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist for The Hill and a Fox News contributor.

Tags Andrew Cuomo Chris Cuomo CNN Cuomo Prime Time Don Lemon Don Lemon Donald Trump Erin Burnett Jake Tapper Jim Acosta Joe Biden Michael Smerconish United States cable news Van Jones

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