'Crossfire' Creator Slams New CNN Spitzer-Parker Show

June 26th, 2010 9:34 AM

The former CEO of CNN and the creator of its Crossfire show, Reese Schonfeld, has slammed the new CNN show that will be hosted by Kathleen Parker and Client Number Nine aka Eliot Spitzer. In his Huffington Post blog, Schonfeld not only blasts the proposed new show but provides some interesting background on the original Crossfire in its early years:

As the former CEO of CNN, and the creator of Crossfire (the show, not the name -- Paul Bissonette, CNN's PR man, came up with that), I think I'm qualified to comment on the new, not to be called Crossfire, television program created for Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker.

To be blunt, I can't think of a worse idea. The original Crossfire featured Pat Buchanan and Tom Braden, whose name you rarely hear these days. The program was not intended as a shouting match -- our goal was to put the number one news maker of the day on CNN air at 10pm every night and to have him reply to questions from the right, Buchanan, and from the moderate left, Braden. The guest would be caught in the crossfire.

So how was Schonfeld treated for creating the concept of Crossfire? He was fired:

But Ted Turner didn't like the idea of the show, and refused to schedule it. Ted and I had a fight -- I lost, and I got fired. But I, as CEO of CNN, had signed a contract with Braden and Buchanan. They threatened a lawsuit. I was to be a witness, and Ted was advised to settle the lawsuit. He agreed, and put Crossfire on the air for a half an hour at 11:30pm, and within six months, Ted moved it to 7:30pm. It quickly became the highest rated show on CNN.

The original hosts, and it seems the original concept, left Crossfire by 1989 and here is the reaction of Schonfeld to the new shouting match show:

I was appalled by it, and remained so for the next fifteen years -- lazy bookers, second-rate guests, a crowded stage and a shouting match. Its ratings had decreased, and once FoxNews launched, Crossfire was overmatched and overwhelmed. It's a sad and painful story, so I wasn't too disappointed when CNN's current President, Jonathan Klein, killed it. I didn't think anything could be worse than that, but Klein has proven me wrong.

As for the new Spitzer-Parker show, Schonfeld has less than kind words:

Now, in what seems to be one last desperate attempt to save his job, Klein has created a pale imitation of the original Crossfire. The dictatorial Eliot Spitzer is the antithesis of the strong, but cordially polite, Tom Braden, and Kathleen Parker is no Pat Buchanan. According to the New York Times, she characterizes herself as "pro-life...But I don't go around carrying a fetus in a jar." Buchanan, like Barry Goldwater before him, was not afraid of being considered extreme. Parker seems to avoid it at all costs.

CNN was created as a news network, and the 10pm hour, where the Crossfire show had been originally scheduled, was supposed to make news. By interviewing the protagonist of the day's leading story, we hoped we could get him to say something that would advance the story by at least one news cycle, and have everybody quoting us in the next day's newspaper. The guest was supposed to deliver fresh information, not controversy. Unfortunately, for twenty years, Crossfire shed more heat than light, and I suspect Spitzer-Parker will do the same.

Not to quibble with Schonfeld but to your humble correspondent it appears that Kathleen Parker seems to avoid being considered a real conservative at all costs. And how good can a show be if it features a liberal versus a "conservative" who is apologetic for being so? Can't CNN at least find a real conservative or perhaps it is more of a matter of them not even wanting one in the first place.