CNN/US President Jon Klein defended his decision to give Eliot Spitzer a primetime show Sunday in an interview on the network's "Reliable Sources" program.
Klein said that the network "gave considerable thought" to Spitzer's disgraceful exit from public office following a prostitution scandal:
Eliot Spitzer still has a lot of ideas to contribute and a lot of things to say. And I think our viewers are going to find him a very interesting person to tune into every night. ... But, ultimately, the fact that he had acknowledged his mistakes, had apologized for them, and still was very much engaged in the world of ideas tilted the balance for us very heavily. I mean, he's an extremely well-versed, thoughtful person who has been writing columns on Slate, who has appeared on television very frequently. Actually, filled in as a host for a few weeks at another network. And what we saw told us that this is a person who had a voice that ought to be heard.
Klein added that he was not surprised by the criticism — both from within the network and outside — over his decision, but he urged critics to wait and see the program, which debuts in the fall, before making their judgments.
"Our hope and our expectation is that when [critics of the decision] actually watch the show, they will understand why Eliot Spitzer belongs on CNN," he said. "And, might I add, his co-host, Kathleen Parker, Pulitzer Prize-winning conservative columnist, is going to be an equal reason to watch every night.... I think at the end of the day, when people actually tune into the show, they are going to be glad that he is on."
And Klein said having two opinionated hosts, including a former politician, doesn't taint his network's straight news, down-the-middle stance.
"We've always been a home for vibrant opinion," he said, citing the network's "Best Political Team on Television" range of political analysts. "What we don't do is stack the partisan deck, stack the deck to push one point of view or another. Our network, unlike our cable news competitors, our network is not here to push a right-wing or a left-wing point of view. So, this is a show in which you're going to get the full range of opinions, fairly and honestly broached and explored."
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