CNN has tapped Kaitlan Collins to host a new weekday 9 p.m. show, making her one of the most coveted slots on cable news, a week after she hosted a controversial town hall show with former President Donald J. Trump.
Ms. Collins’ new role was announced Wednesday by CNN Chairman Chris Licht just before a presentation to advertisers in Midtown Manhattan hosted by Warner Bros. Discovery, CNN’s parent company.
Her show, which does not yet have a title, is scheduled to begin in June. “She is a smart and gifted journalist who we have all seen holding lawmakers and newsmakers to account,” Mr Licht wrote in a newsroom memo. “Kaitlan will explore undiscovered angles and challenge conventional wisdom to ensure viewers see the story from all angles.”
The promotion of Ms Collins, 31, a co-host of the network’s morning show, comes as a big bet by CNN executives on a rising star who has impressed colleagues with her interviewing and reporting skills but is relatively untried as a solo presenter.
It’s also Mr. Licht’s latest attempt to revive his channel’s declining ratings.
CNN’s 9 p.m. hour – once the busiest time slot – has been effectively vacant since Chris Cuomo was fired in December 2021. Mr. Licht’s recent attempt to fill the hour with a variety of interviews and news specials failed with viewers. CNN lags behind Fox News and MSNBC on weekdays, and on Friday, two days after Trump Town Hall, it even lost to Newsmax, a fledgling conservative broadcaster available in fewer homes.
Ms. Collins, who joined CNN in 2017 as a reporter for the Trump White House, brings youthful vigor to a programming block that has been hosted by middle-aged male anchors for years.
Ms. Collins, an Alabama native who got her start at conservative news site The Daily Caller, is credited by Mr. Licht for her alleged ability to connect with viewers outside of the liberal coastal enclaves. In 2021, at age 28, she became the network’s chief White House correspondent, the youngest person to hold that capacity, covering President Biden before relocating to New York last year to co-host CNN This Morning.
She is also well-respected in the political media and was set to serve as President of the White House Correspondents Association starting in 2024. (She had to forego that role after moving from Washington.)
In April, Ms Collins hosted CNN’s 9pm show for a week. She received positive ratings and executives noted that by 8 p.m. she was able to retain much of Anderson Cooper’s lead-in audience
Last week, she burst into the national spotlight as the presenter of the New Hampshire Town Hall with Mr. Trump. Ms Collins remained calm in the face of Mr Trump’s spate of untruths, repeatedly interrupting to correct unfounded allegations. Mr Trump largely glossed over her and was applauded by some viewers as he mocked Ms Collins as a “bad person”.
“The election was not rigged, Mr President,” Ms Collins said in a representative exchange. “You can’t say that all night.” (Mr. Trump kept saying it.)
The exact format of Ms Collins’ 9 p.m. show has yet to be determined, but one idea being mooted by CNN executives is focusing on one or two major news topics of the day, according to a person who has asked for anonymity to ease internal discussions to portray.
Announcing Ms Collins’ role, Mr Licht told advertisers on Wednesday his plan for CNN was to focus on “reporting expertise to separate the news from the noise”. A moment could be seen between Ms Collins and Mr Trump from last week’s town hall in video promoting the network, a sign Mr Licht is not shying away from the event in the face of criticism.
Ms Collins steps up after navigating a tense situation on ‘CNN This Morning’. Her co-host Don Lemon unsettled crew members last year when he confronted Ms Collins backstage, accusing her of interrupting him too often. The tensions, in part, led to Ms. Collins leaving her talent agent, who also worked with Mr. Lemon, and seeking new representation. Mr Lemon was later ousted from CNN after he drew heavy criticism for his sexist remarks on the show.
Poppy Harlow, the remaining “CNN This Morning” co-host, will remain on the show, Mr Licht said on Wednesday. Ms Harlow will helm the show and will be joined by a number of guest presenters pending a permanent cast, he said.
Michael M. Grynbaum