This Is CNN . . . Losing Audience

In a move that shocked absolutely no one and interested relatively few, former U.S. Representative Adam Kinzinger (I-Ill.) has joined CNN as a “senior political commentator”—i.e., a glorified talking head. 

With significantly shrinking viewership since Donald Trump left the Oval Office, CNN has tried desperately to win audience share by hiring people only an uninformed leftist could view as appealing to people on the Right. 

The network’s biggest blunder so far has been Chris Wallace. CNN hired the former “Fox News Sunday” anchor for a whopping $6 million a year in an attempt to launch its CNN+ streaming product, which shut down in less than 30 days. It is safe to say viewers never wanted to pay extra to see on their mobile devices the same personalities they were already forced to watch at the airport. 

Wallace is now continuing his decline as he flails and flounders at the O.G. CNN, hosting a show most have never heard of called “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace?” A better title might be “Who’s Watching Chris Wallace?” as the program averaged just 472,000 viewers and a paltry 81,000 in the vaunted 25-54 demographic.

Kinzinger’s value to CNN is similar to that of another senior political commentator at the network, former Ohio Governor John Kasich. They’re both milquetoast moderate to left-leaning Republicans who are best known for blurting “Orange Man Bad!” in a knee-jerk response to any suggested populist reform. Most people can’t name a single significant accomplishment of either Kinzinger or Kasich during their respective tenures in public office. They are both more known for the memes they generated: Kinzinger crying during a January 6 hearing and Kasich’s bizarre eating photos.

So why are they employed by the network?

Since joining the network last week, the only notable news to come out of Kinzinger’s pie hole has been . . . well . . . his hiring. He has said nothing of significance and has added nothing to the conversation and commentary at CNN beyond mimicking Democrats at the network’s talking points. 

A better question might be why network executives at CNN (or ABC News, for that matter, with their endless quest for a caricature of a “conservative” to place on “The View”) continue to hire these sorry Republicans-in-Name-Only?

It’s essentially the same reason that Democrats continue to push the January 6 “insurrection” narrative while millions of Americans are trying to navigate the worst inflation in more than 40 years: The Washington, D.C. political-media bubble is a different world.

Elected officials and their media friends are in a perpetual cocktail hour together. They’re fans of one another and want nothing more than to be recognized and patted on the back by each other. In the middle of some of the worst economic struggles our country has suffered in decades, the bipartisan ruling class continues to come up with ideas that fix nothing and cost plenty. Yet they experience no pushback from corporate journalists or media executives who, not so very long ago, considered it their sacred duty to “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.”

It’s this political-media bubble that led to Kinzinger being touted as “reasonable” and “diverse” new voice at a dying network where he adds zero to the conversation. His is just another boring face repeating the same talking points as everybody else.  

Will this change? That depends. 

When I host a radio show and a liberal calls in to argue with me, I know it’s going to be a good show. Even if it’s a 90-second argument, the next hour will be filled with calls from conservatives who want to participate and weigh in on what was said. I can’t think of any reason why the same couldn’t happen at CNN, MSNBC, or even the Washington Post or New York Times. Diversity of thought and actual intellectual argument can get ratings and views.

But, for whatever reason, the executives at those failing media organizations aren’t interested in robust dialogue. To them, hiring boring, unaccomplished “yes men” to fill a seat and repeat the prevailing opinion is good enough—even as the audience keeps tuning out.

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About Tim Young

Tim Young is the media and culture critic for American Greatness.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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