CNN to end Jake Tapper prime time experiment after midterms and put him back on at 4pm – leaving the 9pm slot still free after Chris Cuomo’s 2021 departure
- Jake Tapper, one of CNN’s lead Washington anchors, had been tapped for the timeslot less than a month ago, ahead of this year’s midterm elections
- At the time, the network had said the change could be temporary, setting a timeline for Tapper’s new tenure from October 10 until November 11.
- On Wednesday, the famously progressive network said in a statement that Tapper will be tapped out of the hour next Friday when that timeframe expires
- The decision is the latest in a series of changes enacted by the network under new CEO Chris Licht as it strives to shed its perception of being too liberal
CNN has decided not to let Jake Tapper keep Chris Cuomo’s old 9pm primetime slot following poor viewership – throwing a hurdle into plans for the anchor to become the ‘face’ of the news channel as it pulls away from partisan reporting.
Tapper, one of the channel’s lead Washington anchors, had been tapped for the timeslot less than a month ago, ahead of this year’s midterm elections.
At the time, the network had said the change could be temporary, setting a timeline for Tapper’s new gig set to end on November 11.
Sure enough, on Wednesday, a little over a week before that supposed deadline, the famously progressive network said in a statement that Tapper will be tapped out of primetime next Friday, upon the conclusion of that timeframe.
The decision is the latest in a series of sweeping changes enacted by the network as it strives to shed its perception of being too liberal under new CEO Chris Licht, who took the job in February, just months after Cuomo’s ousting last December.
Since then, the station has failed to fill the slot long associated with the anchor, who lost the gig after trying to help his brother Andrew Cuomo fight off a sexual harassment scandal.
Ratings for the hour have since suffered following Cuomo’s departure, despite splashy interviews with several high-profile guests.
The 52-year-old Cuomo, who manned the hour for three years, recently began a new job anchoring for the non-partisan network NewsNation, but his primetime slot remains in limbo, previously manned by a series of rotating hosts as showrunners struggle to find the solution to its dwindling viewership.
CNN has walked back its decision to have Jake Tapper take over Chris Cuomo’s old 9pm primetime slot following poor viewership – throwing a hurdle into the network’s reported plans for the anchor to become the ‘face’ of the network as it pulls away from partisan reporting.
The time slot has been vacant ever since the December 2021 ousting of Chris Cuomo, who headed the hour with great success for three years before being forced to resign for helping his brother Andrew Cuomo navigate a damning sex scandal
‘As part of a special lineup, Jake agreed to anchor the 9pm hour through the midterm elections,’ a spokesperson said of the station’s decision to pull the plug on the Tapper experiment Wednesday in a statement.
The rep added that upon ‘the completion of that schedule,’ Tapper will return to host his longtime 4pm post on the political program ‘The Lead.’
The network said it will announce further plans for its ever-shifting lineup ‘in the coming days.’
Tapper’s tentative primetime tenure saw him engage in interviews with big names such as President Biden and movie star Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson – but the high- profile guests failed to save ratings for the failing hour.
New CNN boss Chris Licht, pictured here at the Vanity Fair Oscar afterparty in March, reportedly had wanted Tapper on the 9pm time slot permanently – but following poor ratings, those primetime aspirations were seemingly put to rest
At its height, the show managed just 854,000 viewers – a distant third behind Fox News’ ‘Hannity,’ with 2.6 million viewers, and MSNBC’s ‘Alex Wagner Tonight,’ with 1.6 million viewers.
Tapper’s audience has reportedly dipped even further since the network’s latest ratings release – seemingly throwing a monkey wrench into Licht’s reported plans for Tapper, a no-nonsense political commentator, to become the ‘new face’ of the network.
Licht reportedly had wanted Tapper for the 9pm time slot permanently – but following the poor ratings, those aspirations were seemingly put to rest, dashing the primetime chances of someone who was widely speculated to be among the top talent at the station in the running for the permanent gig.
The time slot has been vacant ever since the December 2021 ousting of Cuomo.
‘The world has come to rely on Jake’s no-nonsense approach to covering the news, especially during high-stakes election cycles,’ chief executive Licht said in a statement announcing Tapper’s temporary promotion last month.
Tapper’s tentative primetime tenure saw him engage in interviews with big names such as President Biden – which failed to save ratings for the failing hour
The decision dashed the primetime chances of Tapper, someone who was widely speculated to be among the top talent at the station in the running for the permanent gig
The 51-year-old CEO added: ‘This move will showcase his tough reporting, smart analysis and consequential interviews as our audiences navigate the myriad of issues at stake in the midterms.’
As for the reasoning behind the network’s foregoing of Tapper, several observers noted the host’s sluggish ratings during the weeks he was hosting, as Licht and other network leaders work to retool the station’s editorial strategy and right diminished ratings.
Licht, who replaced ousted boss Jeff Zucker last February, has made a number of changes at CNN since taking the helm, turning heads as he strives to return the station to its roots with hard-hitting, non-partisan journalism free of punditry.
that have turned heads both within the company and externally, and said his vision for CNN is one where journalism takes a front seat to punditry prevalent across much of cable news.
Last month, in addition to the 9pm shuffle, anchor Alisyn Camerota and legal analyst Laura Coates were moved to man the 10pm through 12am time slot – a post that was left abandoned by Don Lemon, who was moved to head a ‘reimagined’ morning show along with co-anchors Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins.
‘By adding the insights, experience and strong voices of Alisyn and Laura, we will advance and expand on that coverage, creating something complimentary and compelling in primetime,’ Licht said of the decision – one of the biggest made by the boss in recent months amid his nonpartisan overhaul.
Tapper’s promotion came days after CNN announced a ‘reimagined’ morning show featuring famously progressive anchor Don Lemon – despite the new CEO’s repeated pledges to move the network away from left-leaning commentary
Since taking the helm, Licht, has been adamant staff move away from opinionated reporting that became especially prevalent during Donald Trump‘s election campaign and subsequent presidency, with his tenure already seeing marked decreases in partisan panels featuring outspoken anchors such as Alyssa Farah.
Days before tapping Tapper, CNN announced the ‘reimagined’ morning show featuring famously progressive Lemon, another prime-time staple at the network and a famously outspoken critic of former President Trump and the Republican Party.
The decision saw Lemon sign off his 10 p.m.-midnight block on October 7, trading in the hour for the new morning program.
The shakeup came as a surprise to some, as it seemingly contradicted Licht’s repeated pledges to move the network away from left-leaning commentary.
Cuomo, who manned the hour for three years, recently began a new job anchoring for non-partisan network NewsNation. His primetime slot remains in limbo, having been manned by a series of rotating hosts as showrunners struggle to find the solution to its viewership woes
The production replaced the ‘New Day’ show hosted by John Berman and Brianna Keilar, which had run from 6 to 9am.
‘There is no stronger combination of talent than Don, Poppy, and Kaitlan to deliver on our promise of a game-changing morning news program,’ Licht wrote in a statement at the time announcing the change.
‘They are uniquely intelligent, reliable and compelling; together they have a rare and palpable chemistry. Combined with CNN’s resources and global newsgathering capabilities, we will offer a smart, bold and refreshing way to start the day.’
Lemon has anchored his primetime hour since 2014, and has been with CNN since 2006.
The change also forced further tweaks to the network’s dayside schedule, where both Tapper – the anchor of the late-afternoon news program The Lead – and Camerota led news hours.
New Day anchors John Berman and Brianna Keilar, meanwhile, were moved from the morning hours to make room for Lemon’s new morning program, and will each fill in during Tapper’s The Lead, which airs from 4-5pm.
Network fixture Wolf Blitzer, meanwhile, received an extra hour for his longtime program The Situation Room, which now starts at 5 pm to fill the gap.
The shakeup has left only Anderson Cooper and fellow anchor Erin Burnett at their current hours – with CNN saying other fill-in hosts will be named in the coming weeks.
Last month’s announcements served as some of Licht’s most prominent decisions amid his ‘opinion-based’ overhaul, which sources have said is geared at toning down the often divisive rhetoric of anchors who slam the GOP and their ideals.
Since taking the helm, Licht, who headed Stephen Colbert’s Late Show for six years, has demonstrated a desire to move away from opinionated reporting that became especially prevalent during Donald Trump ‘s election campaign and subsequent presidency
After being announced as Zucker’s successor, Licht sent a memo to his future staff alluding to the changes to come, seeking to rectify viewership that has diminished starkly over the years, as the network’s personalities have become increasingly outspoken with their political opinions.
‘Our viewers demand the truth from us, and I want to learn the truth from you,’ Licht wrote at the time. ‘Together, we will double-down on what’s working well and quickly eliminate what’s not.’
Licht has said his one directive as CNN’s president is to ensure that it ‘remains the global leader in news’ as it adjusts to its recent merger with the Discovery Channel – emphasizing the word ‘news’ in capital letters.
In February, Zucker resigned after facing pressure from network brass for not disclosing a consensual romance with his second-in-command Allison Gollust, his friend and colleague of over 20 years – violating corporate policy in the process.
The new CNN boss has worked to tone down the often opinionated and emotional reporting from anchors like Lemon, who also was relieved of hosting duties for the network’s underperforming primetime slot
Gollust, meanwhile, was forced out of the network almost immediately after – following a third-party investigation into ‘issues associated with Chris Cuomo and former Governor Andrew Cuomo,’ WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar said in a statement.
At the time, Discovery’s largest shareholder, John Malone – a billionaire businessman who donated $250,000 to Trump’s inauguration in 2017 – openly criticized CNN of its increasingly apparent left-leaning bias, ahead of the companies’ multibillion-dollar merger.
CNN founder Ted Turner reportedly also ‘adamantly’ opposed the direction Zucker had taken with CNN by ‘turning it into an opinion network,’ a decision the billionaire said was done to compete with other partisan stations like Fox – but resulted in ‘losing the concept of hard news.’
Turner and Malone apparently agreed on their disappointment in the current state of the network, Turner’s biographer Porter Bibb said last year when Zucker was still at the helm.
‘John Malone is not only speaking his own opinion of what CNN should be doing as an all-news network, but he speaks for Ted,’ Bibb said.
Malone, 81, has since been credited with the ouster of Zucker, which reportedly came after the exec learned of the ex-president’s affair with Vice President Gollust.
CNN hopes to move on from drama after the bombshell ousters of host Cuomo and network boss Jeff Zucker (together above in 2014)
The decision is the latest in Licht’s continuing quest to revamp the struggling news network
CNN has since sought to purge itself of its reputation of being a ‘woke’ media source – with Licht, who headed Stephen Colbert’s Late Show for six years until it was announced he was replacing Zucker, pledging to make the network reliable to the people again by halting the slander of Republicans.
The new movement has resulted in the termination of several popular and notoriously progressive hosts, including John Harwood and Brian Stelter, along with their shows.
However, despite these efforts – which have been in motion for the better part of a year – poor ratings have persisted, particularly for the network’s crucial primetime spot.
Upon assuming the CEO spot toward the start of the year, Licht warned staffers that changes were coming to the network that they may ‘not understand’ or ‘like.’
Tapper, meanwhile, who also cohosts State of the Union on Sunday mornings, had reportedly told colleagues he does not want the 9 pm show, due to issues stemming from the hour’s often perspective-driven approach, which he said conflicts with his preference for straight news, Vanity Fair reported.