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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.
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