Piers Morgan: How I'd Fix CNN
Plus: Is Jeff Zucker his new boss -- and does he hate Anderson?
Piers Morgan, who joined CNN almost two years ago, has some ideas for how the network can pull itself out of the cable news ratings basement. "We should collectively as a network be more aggressive, more provocative, more debate-y," he says. Averaging 576,000 viewers, with 175,000 in the 25-to-54 demo for the month of October, Morgan places third among his 9 p.m. competitors Sean Hannity (Fox News) and Rachel Maddow (MSNBC) but has the most-watched show on the network, beating Anderson Cooper's 8 p.m. program.
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: What does CNN need to do to be competitive again?
Piers Morgan: There has been a slight timidity internally in not wanting to be provocative or opinionated on air because you could stray into being partisan. If the anchor has taken a position on gun control or abortion, somehow you're losing that neutrality. I don't agree. I have become increasingly vocal on my show about these very issues, totally unafraid to say what I think. It's actually better television if a host says, "You know what I think about abortion? I think it should be down to the women." What I won't say is if I'm going to vote for Obama or Romney. The beauty for me is [as a Brit], I can't.
THR: A Vanity Fair article suggested you and Anderson Cooper don't get along. True?
Morgan: We see each other every single day, and the conversation normally goes: "Hi, Anderson, how are you?" And he goes: "I'm fine, thanks, Piers. How are you, mate?" It's ridiculous. I thought it was laughable. The thing about CNN, everybody gets on.
THR: Do you think Jeff Zucker would make a good leader for CNN?
Morgan: I love Jeff Zucker. I wouldn't be here without him. He was the boss at NBC Universal. I was under a contract [as host of America's Got Talent]; everybody had said to him don't let him go, and, why do we want to share our talent with CNN? And he said: "I get it. This is your dream job, and I'm going to let you do it." He's a very capable executive. But I think there are lots of people who could do that job very capably, and it won't be my decision. I can say with total honesty I have no idea who is going to get the job.
THR: You've said you admire Donald Trump. Why?
Morgan: He's the personification of brash, successful America incorporated. The guy, whether you like him or not, is a brilliant self-publicist, a brilliant businessman, he's a billionaire, he's very proud of his country. Now I don't think everything he does is necessarily a good idea. I'm sure he doesn't think everything I do is a good idea.
THR: You once edited Rupert Murdoch's News of the World. Do you two still talk?
Morgan: Occasionally. We tweet each other. Rupert took a gamble on me at age 28 to be the youngest editor of his paper. It was a huge leap of faith. And so much as it's the common thing at the moment to go around saying Rupert Murdoch is evil, that's not my experience. He's a combative business guy, somebody you'd want to go to war with.