Last August, when Fox moved Megyn Kelly to prime time to square off against the already-low-rated Piers Morgan on CNN, Morgan tweeted to Kelly, “Bring it on.” Two months later, rumors began rising that Morgan was on his way out. Last night, everyone made it official:
“CNN confirms that “Piers Morgan Live” is ending,” the network said in a statement. “The date of the final program is still to be determined.” …
“It’s been a painful period and lately we have taken a bath in the ratings,” Morgan told the New York Times on Sunday.
In his interview with the Times, Morgan said he thought the audience may have grown weary of his focus on gun control — a major topic of conversation on the show in the wake of several mass shootings in the United States.
“Look, I am a British guy debating American cultural issues, including guns, which has been very polarizing,” he said. “There is no doubt that there are many in the audience who are tired of me banging on about it.”
The New York Times’ David Carr wondered why CNN had bothered with the experiment at all, but the execution was worse than the concept. Carr believes that Morgan buried himself with his weird focus on English sports and gun control, and perhaps especially the latter:
In a sense, Mr. Morgan is a prisoner of two islands: Britain and Manhattan. While I may share his feelings about the need for additional strictures on guns, having grown up in the Midwest, I know that many people come by their guns honestly and hold onto them dearly for sincere reasons.
Mr. Morgan’s approach to gun regulation was more akin to King George III, peering down his nose at the unruly colonies and wondering how to bring the savages to heel. He might have wanted to recall that part of the reason the right to bear arms is codified in the Constitution is that Britain was trying to disarm the citizenry at the time.
He regrets none of it, but clearly understands his scolding of “stupid” opponents of gun laws was not everyone’s cup of tea.
“I’m in danger of being the guy down at the end of the bar who is always going on about the same thing,” he said. He added that he was sure there were plenty of people in the heartland angry “about this British guy telling them how to lead their lives and what they should do with their guns.”
Carr doesn’t explicitly say this, but his point is clear enough. Had Morgan been a snob or an elitist, he might have survived. Being both, well, that’s a different story. CNN wants more out of its 9 pm slot than MSNBC ratings, and that kind of oeuvre might not even sell on that channel — although I wouldn’t be surprised to see MSNBC give him a try, if he wants to stick around in the US. The prime-time name recognition still has some value, even if it wasn’t grabbing audiences, and there’s always a narrow market for people narrowly looking down their noses at the hoi polloi.
By the way, Morgan’s not the only one taking a leave from the public eye. Alec Baldwin says he’s done with celebrity, too, and ready to just do movies and nothing else. I’d put more money on Baldwin sticking to it.