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Five Replacement Candidates for Chris Cuomo in Primetime on CNN

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CNN fired primetime anchor Chris Cuomo on Saturday following new details about his efforts to assist his brother, Andrew Cuomo, the former governor of New York, amid a series of sexual harassment allegations. Cuomo anchored the network’s 9 pm hour, CNN’s top-rated time slot.

Here are five in-house replacement options for Cuomo:

Jake Tapper

Staff inside CNN view Jake Tapper as the frontrunner to succeed Cuomo.

While less charismatic than Cuomo, Tapper has a commanding presence that would translate well to primetime. Tapper is arguably the face of CNN, despite anchoring from 4 to 6 pm ET, so he’d be an easy sell to CNN viewers.

Tapper is also willing to go against mainstream media’s views. For example, on Sunday, Tapper blasted the NBA, Wall Street, and Hollywood over their relationships with China — an objective criticism his colleagues would never make.

Tapper is a no-brainer for CNN. But this is the television industry, where common sense rarely prevails. Moreover, Tapper is a white male — a species CNN spends much time vilifying.

Don Lemon

CNN could move Don Lemon up an hour, from 10 to 9 pm. Given Lemon’s relationship with Cuomo — especially their infamous cringy handoffs at 9:59 — CNN’s 9 pm base is familiar with Lemon. 

The concern is that Lemon already struggles at 10. Don Lemon Tonight ranked 40th in cable news in November with an average of 457,000 viewers. Lemon would face even tougher competition an hour earlier, whether Rachel Maddow remains an MSNBC daily host or not.

Laura Coates

CNN management is high on Laura Coates, 41, and have increased her presence on the network over the past year. Like Cuomo, Coates hosts a daily radio show on SiriusXM’s POTUS channel. 

Because Coates routinely fills in for Don Lemon, she’s also an option to succeed Lemon at 10 pm, should Lemon move to 9. In fact, that’s more likely to happen than for her to take over for Cuomo, as broader viewers are still unfamiliar with Coates’ work.

Brianna Keilar

Wait, the angry woman from the morning show?

Dylan Byers reported over the weekend that Brianna Keilar is on Jeff Zucker’s shortlist of internal candidates for the 9 pm hour.

CNN seems to enjoy Keilar’s bombastic style. More to the point, Keilar fits CNN’s post-Trump philosophy that Tucker Carlson and Ron DeSantis are the boogeymen du jour. And after Brian Stelter, Oliver Darcy, and Jim Acosta, no one at CNN hates Carlson more than Keilar does.

Brianna Keilar’s hostile tone also hasn’t worked well in the mornings on New Day, so something has to change there anyway. 

Michael Smerconish

When Cuomo was off-air this past year, often for vacation time, CNN turned to Michael Smerconish in his absence. Though networks don’t often view a show’s backup host as a plausible successor to the current host, Smerconish will have the opportunity to change CNN’s mind. The network says Michael Smerconish will fill in at 9 pm this week, and it likely won’t be his final bid.

Smerconish, a Republican-turned-centrist, is CNN’s most independent-minded opinionist. Though independent thinking would not have worked well for CNN during the Trump administration, WarnerMedia’s upcoming merger with Discovery could change that. John Malone, Discovery’s most powerful shareholder, said on record that he hopes — in other words, he will push — CNN to shed its MSNBC impersonation and return back to a “facts first” network.

I’d take the under that CNN ever returns to its past form, but moving Smerconish to primetime would be a solid start.

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack covers media, politics, and sports at OutKick.

4 Comments

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  1. Tappers “commanding presence” LOL you can tell Bobby is all in Biden voter they all suck I never watch cnn but when I pop in that fat blond broad is especially frumpy snarky never smiles yeah that’s who I want I mean come on man smfh

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