From the very start it seemed a brave, if not entirely rash, move by CNN when three years ago it hired a British news man known only to Americans for a tabloid talent show to take the primetime spot on its network that, for more than a generation, had been occupied by the iconic but retiring Larry King. Now it is admitting it was an error.
Piers Morgan, whose career also spanned his editorship of The Mirror newspaper in Britain, will no longer be the nighttime face at CNN, or at least not in the chair vacated by Mr King. He and the network confirmed to the New York Times what many in the industry thought had been a long time coming - that he will be leaving the show very soon, perhaps as soon as next month.
Why CNN may have pulled the plug on Piers Morgan
Detectives Interview Piers Morgan Over Phone Hacking
And the truth is all too evident that the dwindling crew of Americans who were still watching the programme will not much mourn his departure. Or not many among them. He will be remembered by his critics notably for his repeated excoriations of American’s gun-owning culture that possibly played well with the liberal audiences of the east and west coasts, but infuriated the belly of what should have been his audience in Middle America.
Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
1/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
“I want to interview the most important people in the world and have everyone in America the next day going, 'Did you see that?'” On Piers Morgan Live, which just got axed.
2/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
“Most of the men that sue in Hollywood are all about 5' 2“. They wake up every day, know they're tiny and feel very angry about it, so they go out and sue people.”
3/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
“It was pretty compelling to watch, pretty weird, and it made me gag a few times.” – in his role as Britain’s Got Talent judge
4/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
“I'm guilt-ridden about introducing her to Paul McCartney. It was a moment of Cupid madness which cost Sir Paul $50 million, so the least I can do is ban her from the show.” - On banning Heather Mills from Piers Morgan Tonight
5/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
“Bill O'Reilly is like a comfortable pair of shimmeringly angry slippers, but you know every night what you're going to get.” – On Bill O’Reilly
6/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
“Why do we want someone like Ruth Kelly controlling our children? She's the scariest woman I've ever seen in politics.” - On the British Education Secretary in 2005
7/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
“You're an unbeleivably stupid man, aren't you?” Interviewing gun-rights activist Larry Pratt
8/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
“There is a type of snobbish, pompous journalist who thinks that the only news that has any validity is war, famine, pestilence or politics. I don't come from that school.”
9/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
“To all the ignorant, bigoted transgender community members continuing to abuse me re @janetmock - I'm bored of you now, go away. Thanks.” - On interviewing transgender activist Janet Mock
10/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
“I have kind of an edge in me, which will be a little bit different for that time slot but probably necessary to combat the O'Reillys and so on who are making all the noise.”
11/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
"Everyone's worst ever Christmas sweater > Team USA uniforms. #RalphLauren #Sochi #OpeningCeremony" - Tweeting ahead of Sochi Olympics... And wondering why he's not that popular in the US.
12/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
"To reiterate, I have never hacked a phone, told anyone to hack a phone, nor to my knowledge published any story obtained from the hacking of a phone." - Defending himself against fresh phone-hacking allegations.
13/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
"Anything to do with my kids really is the only thing that gets to me. It's the most difficult thing about the job, unquestionably. It's been the most difficult thing to sacrifice." - On not realising he was the editor of The Mirror once and how hypocritical this therefore sounds.
14/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
"I wonder if poor old Jeremy Clarkson's little hissy fit today is connected to Top Gear's disintegrating ratings & rumours it may be axed?" - Embarrassing in hindsight, during a Twitter spat with Jeremy Clarkson.
15/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
"I never realised how endlessly entertaining Twitter would turn out to be. Oh, the joy when I realised you could tweet Manchester United stars personally, ridiculing them for everything from their dodgy haircuts to offensive swimwear. And even more delicious when they began firing back like enraged Rambos on acid." - On his social media addiction.
16/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
"I do blame people. Where were all the people making money out of her when it mattered? Really, where were they? You know, it's just not good enough and they're all going to make millions out of it now she's dead. You know, the album Back to Black is number one… but people let her down." - On passing the blame on from the pressures of the tabloid press for Amy Winehouse's death.
17/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
“Absolutely nobody in the entire United States of America has even a modicum of interest in who I am, but I’m determined to change that." - On what he tried - and failed - to do in the US.
18/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
"I fear I am now a victim of 'cisphobia'." - Piers Morgan combats being called 'transphobic' after sensationalised Janet Mock interview... By being massively transphobic.
19/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
"@GaryLinekar_ Did you ever actually tackle anyone?" - To which Linekar replied, "Nope never hacked anyone".
20/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
"If I wanted a lesson on physical appearance I'd go to @evalongoria not Shrek's ugly brother" - Arguing with Rio Ferdinand on Twitter. Again.
That he stumbled is not something he himself apparently feels the need to disguise. “It’s been a painful period and lately we have taken a bath in the ratings,” he told David Carr, the media columnist for The Times. He portrayed the decision by him and his bosses at CNN to terminate his 9pm gig as having been calm and mutual.
He also suggested that he may retained at CNN and be given new roles. His existing contract for the programme he is relinquishing does not run out until September. In his eyes, that might mean more occasional appearances, either when important world news is breaking, or interviewing celebrities whose views matter or garner real interest.
Exactly how CNN president Jeffrey Zucker plans to rest the table is not clear. If the 9pm hour is to remain interview-based, there is no word if they have someone in the wings to replace Morgan. Of one thing you can almost be certain, however – that it will not be anyone from the British Isles, however compelling they might be.
Mr Morgan is aware of how his anti-gun lectures – from a foreigner, no less - rubbed many up the wrong way and won’t be easily forgotten.
“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.”
He had privately been telling friends for some time that while he had periods when he had been energised by undertaking the show, called Piers Morgan Live, these periods were usually only during times of gripping, breaking news that his interviews were tapping into. During long periods when not much was happening on the American news waterfront, he felt he was often treading water with sub-par guests who bored him - and presumably the viewers, too.
The travails of Morgan had become more than just a problem for him, however. It was also a rotten fruit at the centre of CNN’s evening spread of primetime programming. His ratings had for many months been an embarrassment to himself and executives and a lead weight on the network as a whole. They regularly trailed far behind the Fox News Channel, owned by Rupert Murdoch, and the other main rival MSNBC.
It’s proving a tricky winter for Mr Morgan. Earlier this month he admitted that in December he had willingly submitted to questioning by police in London in relation to the ongoing phone hacking investigation connected to his time at The Mirror, where he was editor-in-chief from 1995 to 2004.