Who says a prostitute patronizing former governor can’t get a shot at redemption?
After stints as a fill-in host on MSNBC and CNN, the latter announced today that Eliot Spitzer will co-host a new show on the network with conservative Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker. Their show will air at 8 p.m., the slot occupied by Campbell Brown, who announced several months ago that she’s stepping down. (CNN is owned by TIME’s parent company Time Warner.)
In an interview with the New York Times, Spitzer acknowledged that guests on the new program might be tempted to bring up his past dalliances, especially if he’s grilling them about their own behavior. “So be it,” he says. TIME’s TV columnist Jim Poniewozik points out that Spitzer’s wayward behavior was at least part of the reason he was chosen for the new post.
The first is not that Spitzer has been chosen despite his sex scandal. It’s that he seemingly was chosen, at least in part, because of the scandal: that is, because of the short-term blast of notoriety and buzz that he will bring with him. Now, for all I know, CNN genuinely sees special and distinctive broadcasting talent in Spitzer, but if they do, it’s eluded me in his long recent history as commentator and guest-host on CNN and MSNBC, where—to my ears, anyway—he comes off grating and supercilious. If he didn’t come with the name and the headlines, I have a hard time believing he’d been chosen on the basis of ability alone.
In several recent magazine profiles, including one in TIME by Sheelah Kolhatkar, Spitzer acknowledged a sense of boredom since leaving the governor’s mansion. He’s been looking for a comeback ever since his fall from grace and has finally found it in one of the most competitive timeslots in cable news.
Spitzer may not be starring in a television series yet, but he is bored out of his mind. (“When you have nothing to do all day, you eventually start yelling from the rafters,” he blurted when I first called him.) He is also frustrated, restless and desperate to get back into the arena but unsure how to do it or if it’s even possible, given the immense baggage he would bring to any new endeavor. He was one of the most driven politicians in America, a rocket powered by ambition and hubris. Now he’s like one of those windup cars stuck on the edge of the carpet, its motor grinding away, threatening to flip over.
I wonder if CNN will be updating its Eliot Spitzer topic page which contains a top-billed video segment titled “Call girl may not be in the clear” and a prescient May 25, 2010 piece by Fortune editor-at-large Peter Elkind called “Eliot Spitzer, Anchorman?”