Changes at CNN as Carville, Matalin, Bennett, Erickson, Whitaker Ousted

January 30th, 2013 10:52 AM

When Jeff Zucker became president of CNN earlier this month, some people in the mainstream media feared that this might be the end of “the last bastion of television journalism” since the former head of NBC Universal was expected to make many significant changes in the network personnel and schedule.

Those changes took off on Tuesday, when ABC's Chris Cuomo, who had served as the news anchor on “Good Morning America” from 2006 to 2009 and then moved on to the "20/20" prime-time program, was reported to “have a major role in a new CNN morning show and across the network, anchoring and reporting on major events.”

“Chris is an accomplished anchor who is already an established name in morning television, as well as a widely respected investigative journalist,” Zucker stated in a news release on Cuomo's hiring. “What I love about Chris is that he is passionate about every story he tells, never forgets about the viewer, and represents the type of journalism that makes CNN great.”

Cuomo responded with praise for his former and future employers:

This is a fantastic opportunity to do what I value the most and hopefully to do the work that I do best. While it’s very difficult to leave ABC News, a place filled with people I have loved working with for many years, I am excited about my future with CNN.

However, John Nolte at reported that the new show with Erin Burnett, who currently anchors a CNN prime-time hour, “wouldn't leave a whole lot of room for CNN's current morning host, Soledad O'Brien, “whose only claim to fame has been delivering record ratings -- record LOW ratings.

In addition, she was caught reading the liberal Talking Points Memo website while filling in for Anderson Cooper during a heated discussion with Mit Romney advisor Barbara Comstock on Monday, August 13.

Nevertheless, Daniel Bates of the Daily Mail stated that if Zucker replaces O'Brien with Cuomo, “it could be a slap in the face” for the female anchor.

While O'Brien's status with CNN is currently unclear, several major names associated with “The Worldwide Leader in News” are definitely parting ways with the network. Among them are the “political odd couple,” Democrat James Carville and Republican Mary Matalin.

Also, conservative pundit Bill Bennett and Democratic strategist Maria Cardona are leaving the network, but CNN Espanol is expected to keep Cardona on board. Erick Erickson, the conservative blogger who manages and has served as a political commentator for the network since 2010 is also leaving for the Fox News Channel, which ended 2012 as the highest-rated cable news channel for 11 years.

Finally, CNN executive VP and managing editor Mark Whitaker is leaving the network, a move he announced in a statement on Tuesday that praised Zucker.

Now, with Jeff Zucker’s arrival, we have a new leader with his own forceful ideas about where to take CNN’s reporting, programming and brand. For him to succeed, I believe he deserves his own team and management structure and the freedom to communicate one clear vision to the staff. I have shared that conclusion with him, and he has agreed to let me step down as managing editor and move on from CNN.

As someone who worked with Jeff at NBC, I know what a bold innovator he is, and I wish him and you all the best as you embark on CNN’s next great adventure.

NewsBusters previously reported that CNN has been struggling to obtain higher ratings, especially since liberal host Piers Morgan dragged the network down to only 39,000 viewers in the important 25-54 demographic on May 16.

One week later, Morgan and fellow CNN host Anderson Cooper sank their ratings to the lowest weekday prime-time level in the past 20 years.

Will Zucker's major overhaul of the network turn things around for CNN after years of poor ratings? Or is he simply re-arranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic by replacing liberals with … other liberals? Only time -- and future posts here at NewsBusters -- will tell.