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Whenever a signature television role opens, the news often cycle mirrors the MLB free agency period. Nearly every other day, there’s a new leak about possible candidates, contract offers, and demands. The key for viewers is to decipher which leaks are accurate, which are bogus, and which are merely leverage plays.
Enter the latest report on CNN’s primetime opening in the wake of Chris Cuomo’s termination.
Since CNN fired Cuomo on Saturday, multiple sources from inside CNN have claimed that Jake Tapper is the frontrunner to replace Cuomo at 9 pm. Now, Vanity Fair, an ally of talent agents, reports that Tapper does not want the job:
Various names are being floated in the parlor games speculating about Cuomo’s successor, but I can pour a bit of cold water on at least one of them: Jake Tapper, who helms CNN’s 4 pm time slot and cohosts State of the Union on Sunday mornings, has told colleagues he does not want the 9 pm show, citing family time and his straight-news approach compared to the more perspective-driven style that viewers have come to expect in the hour.
Don’t overlook the outlet’s claim that Tapper has a “straight-news approach.” That line signals to CNN that if it wants to move Tapper, it will have to comply with his format demands, something the network likely would not want to do.
Tapper’s team certainly has reasons to plant this leak and regain leverage. Pretending he doesn’t want the job would force the network to wine and dine him, which could be worth a few extra million dollars per year.
And Tapper might be worth it. The few options left after Tapper are unimpressive. Hardly any viewers go out of their way to watch Don Lemon, Laura Coates is still an unknown to most cable news watchers, Brianna Keilar isn’t good on television, and Michael Smerconish might not be liberal enough to satisfy CNN’s primetime direction.
So whether Tapper’s team is telling the truth or not when he says he doesn’t want to move to primetime, don’t expect CNN to accept that and look the other way.