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CNN is reportedly closing in on a permanent host to replace Chris Cuomo, whom former president Jeff Zucker fired last December. Two names are said to top the list: Chris Wallace and Brian Williams.
“Former Fox News anchor Chris Wallace is one name being floated internally to take the key 9 p.m. slot,” reported The Daily Beast. Wallace ended his 18-year stint at Fox News Channel last December, just days after the network cut ties with Cuomo. Then-CNN president Jeff Zucker hired the long-running host of “Fox News Sunday” as part of the network’s subscription-based streaming service, CNN+. As The Daily Wire reported at the time:
“I am thrilled to join CNN+. After decades in broadcast and cable news, I am excited to explore the world of streaming,” Wallace said in a statement. “I look forward to the new freedom and flexibility streaming affords in interviewing major figures across the news landscape—and finding new ways to tell stories. As I embark on this adventure, I am honored and delighted to join Jeff Zucker and his great team. I can’t wait to get started.”
Observers such as Howard Stern poured savage criticism on Wallace, scorning his decision to leave the top-rated network in cable news to move to a failing network.
Others said CNN would be a more natural fit, given Wallace’s moderation of the 2020 presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden, in which he regularly interrupted the Republican. “Maybe he can slide into the 9 pm slot at CNN and talk endlessly about his two favorite subjects: white supremacy and global warming,” said radio host Gerry Callahan. “Good riddance to this fraud.”
The other “name that continues to pop up” to replace Cuomo “is Brian Williams,” The Daily Beast added. Williams hosted MSNBC’s “The 11th Hour” for five years, until he retired last fall. The show gave Williams a chance to redeem himself after he left his position as anchor of the “NBC Nightly News” when he got caught exaggerating the danger he faced while a correspondent in war-torn Iraq. MSNBC replaced Williams with Stephanie Ruhle, the former daytime anchor, who once implied that parents’ concerns over racially- and sexually-charged public school curricula “aren’t even major issues.”
Sources close to Williams have said for months that the 62-year-old anchor “thinks he has one more swing at bat” at a major network. “He still views himself as a world-class, primetime anchor.”
“Whatever his new job is, it is not going to be at 11 o’clock,” a source told the New York Post. “This is his last swing at-bat. He’s going to do this right.”
Williams had been in talks with ABC and CBS, and he reportedly had friendly relations with Zucker, who was himself fired from CNN last month.
CNN had previously terminated Cuomo over allegations that he had sexually harassed an unnamed woman. Last September, Cuomo’s former ABC News colleague Shelley Ross accused Cuomo of “lowering one hand to firmly grab and squeeze the cheek of my buttock” at a party.
The question of who fills the anchor’s chair will fall to CNN’s incoming CEO Chris Licht, who is scheduled to take over the low-rated cable news network on May 1. Licht has served as executive producer of “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.”