by David Bauder
NEW YORK (AP) — CNN said Wednesday that it is bringing the political debate show “Crossfire” back on the air this fall with Newt Gingrich as one of the combatants.
The former House speaker and Republican presidential candidate will be one of the four regular hosts of the program, taking the conservative side along with commentator S.E. Cupp of The Blaze. Stephanie Cutter, a former campaign spokeswoman for President Barack Obama, and Van Jones, a Yale-educated attorney and advocate for green projects, will speak from the left.
“It just feels like the right time for ‘Crossfire’ to be coming back,” said Sam Feist, CNN’s senior vice president and Washington bureau chief. The show will air weekdays but no time slot has been set.
The original aired on CNN from 1982 until 2005, and its alumni list reads like a Washington who’s who — Pat Buchanan, Robert Novak, Geraldine Ferraro, Lynn Cheney, James Carville, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson among them. It was essentially killed by Jon Stewart.
“The Daily Show” host appeared on “Crossfire” in 2004 and got into a bitter fight with Carlson, with Stewart calling the show “partisan hackery” that did little to advance the cause of democracy. When then-CNN U.S. President Jon Klein cancelled it a few months later, he said he was essentially siding with Stewart.
But with Fox News Channel tilting right and MSNBC leaning left, there really isn’t a debate program on cable TV now that is a fair fight, Feist said.
“CNN is really the only network that can have a bipartisan debate show with some level of authenticity,” he said.
Each show will have a single topic and feature two of the four regular hosts, joined by two guests who are experts on the particular issue being discussed, Feist said. It will be a studio show without the audience that was used in a later incarnation of “Crossfire,” he said.
New CNN chief Jeff Zucker began pushing for the show’s resurrection almost since taking over this winter, saying he had long been a fan of it, Feist said.