Making Lemon-aid: “I was not demoted … this is a promotion”

Source: Hot Air

Chris Licht isn’t the only one making Lemon-aid out of necessity at CNN. After getting bounced out of his prime-time slot, Don Lemon took on the thankless task of competing against Fox & Friends and Morning Joe by anchoring CNN’s hapless morning slots, now occupied by the soon-exiting New Day hosts John Berman and Brianna Keilar.

Getting moved from prime time into a dying morning slot sure seems like a demotion, but Lemon insists that he jumped at the chance. Instead, it was an “opportunity that I can’t pass up” to set the “editorial direction of the network every single day,” Lemon claimed last night (via the Daily Caller):

LEMON: …I was presented with an opportunity that I can’t pass up at this network. And we have a new boss who is a morning show impresario and he wants a morning show that will kick off the editorial direction of the network every single day. And I am honored that he asked me to do it. And for all of those are out there saying, he moved me. And without my — he asked me and I said, yes, I could have said no. This is my show. I have a contract for this show. I decided that I would take him up on that and take this journey with him. So, this is not someone moving me.

And by the way, this is not someone saying you must move to the right Don Lemon, you must not be — so give so much of your perspective. None of that has happened. All of that is fodder for Twitter, which is not real. So, stop it. I was not demoted. None of that. This is an opportunity. This is a promotion. This is — this is an opportunity for me to create something around me[.]

Could this be more truth than spin? Possibly. My pal Hugh Hewitt jumped at the chance to move from afternoon drive time to morning drive time on Salem a few years back for the same reason that Lemon declares here — a chance to drive the news cycle and set the tone for the day. And it worked, too, even if it did complicate his sleep cycles …. and Duane Patterson’s, and mine too when I guest host for him. There is a legit opportunity to drive the cycle and set the narratives here.

However, that brings up another point. Supposedly, Licht wants to rebuild CNN’s credibility as a straight-news reporting organization. If he’s bringing Lemon to the mornings to “kick off the editorial direction of the network each morning,” how does that enhance CNN’s straight-reporting credibility? Or for that matter, its editorial credibility? After all, Lemon wasn’t exactly tearing up the ratings contest for CNN in prime time as of last month, and rumors of a replacement had already bubbled up over a week before this change got announced:

Lemon in particular has taken a beating in the ratings. His “Don Lemon Tonight” was the lowest-ranked show in primetime in August, averaging 660,000 viewers.

A CNN source told The Post there are no plans to get rid of Lemon, despite rumors about his future in the time slot.

CNN’s Kasie Hunt, who was poached from NBC News and MSNBC last year, began hosting the 9 p.m. slot this week. Although Hunt has filled in before, insiders buzzed that this could be a tryout for the 37-year-old anchor as the pressure mounts on Licht to fill the spot. She could also be a contender for other prime-time spots that open, they said.

One has to wonder why Licht didn’t put Kasie Hunt in the morning slot instead. It might have given CNN a fresh start on the mornings and still at least have retained some claim to straight-news focus. Instead, they went with the ratings-deficient Lemon and “editorial direction”-setting for the entire network, which reads as kicking the day off with far-left spin.

Will that revive CNN’s morning fortunes? Lemon will have to try to pull viewers away from MSNBC’s Morning Joe with that kind of “editorial direction.” Perhaps he might win over some MSNBC viewers who view Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski as too centrist for their tastes, but … that’s not a wide swath of the electorate. And it is the kind of identity-creation strategy that Licht supposedly was trying to escape.

Despite what Lemon says, this looks like a last-chance opportunity for Lemon to survive at CNN. He may have had a contract, but lots of people have contracts in broadcasting, only to have them bought out and/or canceled when the ratings crater — as ratings did with Lemon. If CNN’s morning fortunes don’t substantially improve, Lemon might have bigger worries than a demotion.  In that sense only, Lemon’s right that “this is an opportunity.”