David Carr of the New York Times confuses arrogance with Britishness. They’re not the same thing. Carr suggests that American audiences were being parochial, when the fact of the matter is that Piers Morgan was a poor fit for a news personality, egotistical to a fault, making everything about himself. It’s a trait that didn’t endear him to people in the UK. Americans didn’t take to him either.
CNN’s president, Jeffrey Zucker, has other problems, but none bigger than Mr. Morgan and his plum 9 p.m. time slot. Mr. Morgan said last week that he and Mr. Zucker had been talking about the show’s failure to connect and had decided to pull the plug, probably in March. I received a return call from Mr. Morgan and was prepared for an endless argument over my assumptions. Not so. His show, he conceded, was not performing as he had hoped and was nearing its end. “It’s been a painful period and lately we have taken a bath in the ratings,” he said, adding that although there had been times when the show connected in terms of audience, slow news days were problematic. “Look, I am a British guy debating American cultural issues, including guns, which has been very polarizing, and there is no doubt that there are many in the audience who are tired of me banging on about it,” he said. “That’s run its course and Jeff and I have been talking for some time about different ways of using me.”
As a floor mop? A toilet brush? A human target? There are so many possibilities. But I predicted that Piers Morgan would be canceled and that he would do his best to spin it. Now the spin is that he’ll be reserved for “big interviews”.
“I think I can credibly do news and the ratings reflect that, but it is not really the show that I set out to do,” he told me. “There are all kinds of people who can do news here. I’d like to do work — interviews with big celebrities and powerful people — that is better suited to what I do well and fit with what Jeff is trying to do with the network.”
Finally Morgan admits that his proper place is standing at the Red Carpet and trying to outshout Joan Rivers. And he’s welcome to it.
Old hands in the television news business suggest that there are two things a presenter cannot have: an accent or a beard. Mr. Morgan is clean shaven and handsome enough, but there are tells in his speech — the way he says the president’s name for one thing (Ob-AA-ma) — that suggest that he is not from around here.
That sort of thing is silly. British accents can work. It’s Morgan’s pseudo-celebrities that was and is off-putting. The air of condescension shared by him and by Christiane Amanpour is off-putting. The issue isn’t the accent, it’s class.
In a sense, Mr. Morgan is a prisoner of two islands: Britain and Manhattan. 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. “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.”
It’s the Manhattan part that matters more. By taking on gun bans, Morgan was sucking up to New York media elites and California celebrities while having little to no clue about the country at large.