Broadcasting & Cable put CNN talk show host Piers Morgan on the cover of its February 28 issue promising Morgan would take on Fox News. But his envy at their audience was showing. When B&C editor Ben Grossman told him he heard him slammed on Fox Business Channel, Morgan was delighted:
Good. If they’re talking about me, great. I want Fox to trash me every single day, nothing could be better. I love Fox’s aggression. I think CNN should take some of that aggression and fight fire with fire.
Morgan also suggested Keith Olbermann was "slightly bonkers" (only slightly?):
I was surprised, but nothing he does should surprise us. He’s a passionate, opinionated, theatrical, slightly bonkers, great broadcaster. But it’s very good for CNN he’s not still around.
He didn't think it was bonkers for Olbermann to move to a "start up" like Current TV. Morgan wants to create some strange kind of passionate, aggressive nonpartisanship. He doesn't want to be one of the "more raucous beasts in the jungle." He doesn't want to even aspire to attracting that audience:
MORGAN: Yes, I would like to develop that more. But I don’t want to be partisan, be categorized as left wing or right wing. I’m an interviewer. I don’t want to move too far away from that into punditry, that’s not why I was brought here.
GROSSMAN: But you know punditry sells on U.S. airwaves.
MORGAN: In the last five, six years, definitely. But before that, what Larry did sold. I think it reaches a point where everyone is screaming so loudly, and I don’t accept that everyone in America, that’s all they want to watch. I don’t have to become an O’Reilly or Beck from an independent position....
And being independent right now is a really good thing. Being too far right or left right now is a bit dangerous, given what’s going on in the Middle East. What Americans need is facts.
GROSSMAN: But don’t television ratings say that is not true? Opinion-driven shows like those on Fox News are on fire.
MORGAN; What I think is that Fox News does better programming. Roger Ailes has done a better job producing compelling television. It can’t be dismissed as right-wing loonies. They have identified an audience and go after it with a passion and a fury and a mad partisan opinion, but it works. I was talking to Rupert Murdoch [at the NBA All-Star Game] and we both agreed, I am not going to get those viewers. And I’m not going to try. Or Rachel Maddow’s viewers.
Grossman also asked about the tremors around Parker Spitzer, which has since dumped Kathleen Parker, and Morgan implied that he has a rougher time contesting Sean Hannity in the ratings because Bill O'Reilly's much more popular than Spitzer et al:
They are up against ferocious competition. It’s MSNBC that now has the problem. Would I like to have Bill O’Reilly’s 2.4 million people as an inheritance? Of course I would. Let’s get real about where Fox’s figures are and have been for quite some time. They have been four or five times as high as CNN’s for quite a while, and obviously Hannity benefits from inheriting 2.4 million people every night, and that’s a fact.