With Morgan Out, Larry King Willing to Return to CNN

Image: With Morgan Out, Larry King Willing to Return to CNN

Monday, 24 Feb 2014 10:19 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Veteran talk show host Larry King says he's willing to return to his show at CNN if  network President Jeff Zucker will have him back.

On Sunday night, Piers Morgan, who was hired three years ago to take over King's show, found himself without a job — and King, 81, who hosts the daily "Larry King Now" for online Ora.TV, told The Daily Beast that if his new network could "work it out, I would do it."

Morgan announced his show's cancellation in an exclusive interview with The New York Times on Sunday, telling media columnist David Carr he and Zucker had been talking about the show's failure to connect with American viewers.

"It’s been a painful period, and lately we have taken a bath in the ratings," he told Carr. "Look, I am a British guy debating American cultural issues, including guns, which has been very polarizing, and there is no doubt that there are many in the audience who are tired of me banging on about it," he said. "That's run its course, and Jeff and I have been talking for some time about different ways of using me."

But King's ratings were also beginning to decline after 25 years on the network, and CNN's former president Jonathan Klein argued that Morgan would be what the network needed to reclaim its top rankings, and claimed the network's executives agreed.

Morgan was a former Fleet Street editor who became known in the United States after he was a contestant on NBC's "The Apprentice" and a judge for "America's Got Talent."

"He was somewhat known to many millions of Americans, and he had some serious chops as a newsman," Klein said. "What you needed to replace Larry King was someone who could interview presidents as well as pop stars. A lot of names popped up who could do one or the other, but very few could do both."

But Morgan's rants about gun control, particularly after the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., eventually soured viewers on him.

Zucker, though, encouraged Morgan's behavior, and the host's reputation never recovered, an insider told The Daily Beast.

"Even gun-control advocates were turned off," the source said. "He became a stereotype of the condescending, supercilious Brit."

Other people, including Morgan, said that his personality was not warm and friendly, and viewers increasingly did not appreciate his combative style.

King says Morgan's ratings also suffered because he took over from "shoes that have been there forever."

"In truth, when someone is on the air for the amount of years I was on, whether it's me or anyone, whoever replaces him, you don't want to be the person who replaces him," King said. In addition, King says his audience likely did not like Morgan's very different style.

"I asked shorter questions. I left myself out of it," said King. "Piers is more of an 'I' interview style."

King agrees with Morgan that "the British thing probably had something to do with it," but said "nothing is forever" in broadcasting, and he wishes Morgan well.

Earlier this month, King told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV that CNN's ratings have plummeted because it no longer has a signature show like his that people are used to watching every day.

"They don't have a lot of appointment viewing. What television depends on, one thing 'Larry King Live' was — whether you liked it, didn't like it — it was appointment viewing," he explained.

On Sunday, Morgan said he and Zucker have been discussing his future at CNN, but someone must be found quickly to fill that 9 p.m. prime-time hole.

King said if he's not picked, he loves CNN's "New Day" host Chris Cuomo.

"I think he's a prime-time talent, a very good interviewer, has a great manner, a beautiful voice, and looks good — plus, he's young," King said.

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