Launch of CNN’s new morning show focusing on conversation and chemistry; Don Lemon pushes back on ‘both sides’ responses to Pelosi attack
CNN’s new morning show CNN this morning launched on Tuesday with a heavy three-hour newsreel that nonetheless played a vital part of the rival shows: Conversation and Chemistry.
“I probably slept two hours,” said Don Lemon, who was once part of the network’s nighttime lineup in the opener, flanked by his co-hosts Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins, as they each joked about their new concerts on the network.
On a comforting blond wood decor and behind an acrylic desk, with the requisite designer coffee mugs close at hand, the three hosts chatted a bit about Halloween, but seemed concerned with finding the right balance between chatter and seriously, as they led with a report on Iranian plans to ship ballistic missiles to Russia as it fights its war in Ukraine.
Revitalizing CNN’s morning hours is one of the main goals of CNN Worldwide Chairman and CEO Chris Licht, who earlier in his career helped launch MSNBC. morning joe and, after that, the CBS morning show, distinguishing mainstay shows Today and hello america with a stronger focus on the most recent conversations and joint interviews of hosts with guests. Licht also tapped Ryan Kadro, who succeeded him as executive producer of the CBS show, to play a lead content role that included revamping CNN Matinees.
The challenge for CNN this morning will be to attract regular viewers in the midst of fierce competition: among the cable news networks, fox and friends wins the time slot, while morning joe has long been influential among energy players in New York and DC.
Elements of MSNBC and CBS shows are there. CNN this morning featured other CNN personalities like Audie Cornish and contributors like LZ Granderson, suggesting a cast of regulars is being established, something that has worked well for morning joe. The name of the show itself is also familiar: This morning was the nickname of the CBS show before it was rebranded CBS Matinees Last year.
CNN executives want their This morning to stand out with a wider reach beyond the coasts, with a reach of stories beyond the latest partisan upheavals. The backdrop for the set was an amalgamation of skylines across the country, and various world landmark tchotchkes were in the backdrop. Rather than the panel of experts, the focus was on reports from CNN correspondents. The debut featured a number of international stories, including reporting from Clarissa Ward in Ukraine and Hadas Gold in Jerusalem, but, given that the midterms are a week away, politics were always front and center. There were talks with Democrats John Fetterman and Elissa Slotkin, but also Republicans Brian Kemp and, briefly, Ron Johnson. Much attention has been paid to CNN’s new era as it tries to move away from the Jeff Zucker-Donald Trump years, when it became a frequent target of the former president and his supporters. Later Tuesday, the network reported that Jake Tapper would do a town hall with former Vice President Mike Pence, now straddling the line of standing up to Trump but not outright refuting him.
That said, there were several segments during CNN this morning about the attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the baffling spread of conspiracy theories about the incident. In the third hour, Daniel Dale appeared with a fact check of some of those amplified by Elon Musk and Donald Trump Jr., as their claims were debunked by the latest FBI filing.
Lemon, dressed more casually in a cream-green suit and crew-neck shirt, still made some pointed remarks, including on right-wing extremism, as he did on his nightly show .
The segments on Pelosi’s attack led to one of the defining moments of the debut, during an interview with GOP guest New Hampshire Chris Sununu.
As Sununu pointed out instances of violent threats from the left, Lemon challenged him.
“You can say it’s both sides, but in reality Republicans are not speaking out, mostly in a strident way,” Lemon said. “…For the most part, silence. Very silent from the Republicans on what is happening with the violence. And Don Jr. tweeting horrible things. Why aren’t more people showing up in front of the cameras and saying, “This is awful.” This shouldn’t happen. That’s what Republicans should do. I don’t want my party to be defined by this BS’ Why isn’t this happening? »
“I think you are absolutely right,” Sununu replied, before stressing again that the danger of political violence is “on both sides.”
Lemon pressed him again.
“When it’s on the Democratic side and it happens, people say it’s wrong and it shouldn’t happen and they speak out against it,” he said. “Democratic leaders are coming out and they are doing it immediately. Republicans don’t do that. Are they afraid of Don Jr.? Are they afraid of Donald Trump? Are they afraid to come out and they will lose votes. I’m just being honest. It’s the truth. Go back and look at the evidence. So it’s not the same thing. »
Sununu replied, “I totally understand,” before saying that “overall,” everyone needs to “turn it down.”
Later, in a chat with surprise guest Bryant Gumbel, Lemon seemed to point out that even in the balmy hours of the morning, he wouldn’t be muted. “I don’t like things on both sides,” he told Gumbel.
The morning show veteran offered some perspective. When Commerce Secretary Ron Brown was killed in a plane crash in 1996, few Republicans spoke up to offer their condolences.
“I went on air and asked someone if it was politics as usual or just bad manners,” Gumbel said. “I got a reprimand from NBC. The network apologized and I didn’t.
He then added, “As I watched it this morning, the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
He even had a few words of comfort – or perhaps concern – for the new hosts. In his Today show days, he managed to get by on just three hours of sleep.