Even before his show replaced Larry King Live on CNN, Piers Morgan has always been a divisive personality who isn't afraid to speak his mind. It's that kind of attitude that Morgan thinks CNN needs to be competitive with other cable news networks like FOX News and MSNBC.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the former America's Got Talent judge spoke about his ideas to make CNN successful again, his Twitter feuds, his admiration for Donald Trump, the hacking scandal involving the British newspaper company he used to work for, and much more.
Here are some excerpts from that interview.
The Hollywood Reporter: What does CNN need to do to be competitive again?
Piers Morgan: There has been a slight timidity internally in not wanting to be provocative or opinionated on air because you could stray into being partisan. If the anchor has taken a position on gun control or abortion, somehow you’re losing that neutrality. I don’t agree. I have become increasingly vocal on my show about these very issues, totally unafraid to say what I think. It’s actually better television if a host says: “You know what I think about abortion? I think it should be down to the women.” What I won’t say is if I’m going to vote for Obama or Romney. The beauty for me is [as a Brit], I can’t.
THR: You’ve said you admire Donald Trump. Why?
Morgan: He’s the personification of brash, successful America incorporated. The guy, whether you like him or not, is a brilliant self-publicist, a brilliant businessman. He’s a billionaire; he’s very proud of his country. Now I don’t think everything he does is necessarily a good idea. I’m sure he doesn’t think everything I do is a good idea.
THR: Do you watch any of the programs on the other news channels?
Morgan: I love Bill O'Reilly, even though a lot of it drives me bonkers. I think it's great television. I think he's a class act. I think it's just like a comfortable pair of angry slippers. I think Rachel Maddow is very good at what she does. It's not my kind of thing; it's a very kind of a cerebral, left-wing rant, but it's good TV. She's smart, and she's been great for MSNBC.
THR: Trinity Mirror, the British newspaper company you used to work for, is now the target of hacking lawsuits.
Morgan: I’m not going to get into the hacking because I’ve talked myself to death about it. What I would say about it is that there has been an impression built up that The Daily Mirror, which I was the editor-in-chief of for 10 years, was a version of the National Inquirer, particularly with the Hollywood set. And what I think they need to understand is that The Daily Mirror actually did hard news. We won every major British newspaper award for our coverage of 9/11. We did campaigns to East Timor and Pakistan and Afghanistan. We had people on the ground in Iraq. This impression that it was just a scandal sheet is so far removed from reality.
THR: So are you moving away from celebrities hawking something and toward newsmakers?
Morgan: I would not buy stock in the C-list celebrity guests. I think we're interested in big stars or intelligent people, preferably both. I met Gen. David Petraeus, who I'm a huge fan of, at the Vanity Fair White House Correspondents’ Dinner party. And he said: “I really like your show, but I just don't like all the C-list celebrities. Why do you bother with them?” And I didn't really have a good answer. What we should be doing is filling that space with intelligent debate about issues and stories of the day and then saving the celebrity time for people who matter, who are proper stars and have something to say.
Are you a fan of Piers Morgan Tonight? Would you prefer more hard news or do you enjoy the celebrity fluff?