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Memo to CNN: Just say no to Eliot Spitzer

I am not going to go on and on about this, but I want to get on the record saying that if CNN decides to make former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer a regular on-air presence, it will be making a big mistake.

That probably goes for MSNBC as well, but that depends on how much damage you think Keith Olbermann has or has not already done to that channel's credibility.

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There clearly is a campaign being waged to get Spitzer a cable-TV job. And it is kind of shameless the way some of my colleagues are carrying water for those waging the campaign without acknowledging the folks behind it. That doesn't do much for our credibility either -- I get that.

But here's my problem with Spitzer. It's not his sleazy escapades with prostitutes. It's that he tried to deceive the citizens of New York who put him in office about his sleazy escapades with prostitutes.

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Spitzer led a double life that he apparently kept even from his family -- and when it looked like he was going to be found out, he tried to manipulate money transfers and records to cover the payments he made to the prostitutes.

Is this the kind of character you want representing your cable channel if you are CNN and you are selling yourself in every way possible to the public as a reliable, trustworthy source of information? (And I'm not even talking about ideology and Spitzer as a political partisan.)

I have long championed CNN's commitment to playing it "down the middle," as Jonathan Klein, its president of CNN's U.S. news operations, puts it. As recently as last week, I wrote that CNN is our "last last best hope" for a full-service, independent, U.S.-based global news service that is committed to presenting news and information without ideology. I firmly believe that, and I am also convinced that democracy will suffer in this country without a well-financed mainstream TV operation like CNN providing that service.

Spitzer might be a very smart and highly engaging guy. I suspect he is or he probably would not have gotten as far as he did before his secret life was exposed.

But I honestly do not know how Spitzer could possibly do anything but undermine viewer trust in CNN's oft-ststed commitment to providing facts and information without bias -- news and analysis that its audience can trust.

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