CNN chairman Chris Licht announced Wednesday that Kaitlan Collins will be the new anchor of the struggling network’s 9 p.m. primetime spot.
For the 31-year-old, the promotion is a fulfillment of her many ambitions — and a total own at her former co-host, Don Lemon, who was seen screaming at her in December for supposedly interrupting him on their CNN morning show. According to the New York Post, Lemon’s screaming left Collins “visibly upset” and running out of the studio. Tensions between the two persisted thereafter. Collins definitively won the feud, as Lemon, who had already been demoted to the morning show from his primetime spot, was fired last month.
The mainstream media fawns over Collins. The fact that she got her start working in conservative media for three years, from 2014 to 2017, is for the most part inoffensive to them, and the media uses this past to present CNN as having less of a liberal bias. Only occasionally does controversy bubble up over some of the statements Collins made when she worked for the Daily Caller, the conservative website founded by Tucker Carlson.
Take a New York Times article from last week that was devoted entirely to Collins’ outfit choice for CNN’s May 10 town hall with former President Donald Trump, which she moderated. The article was headlined “Kaitlan Collins, in a White Suit, Takes on Trump.”
According to the New York Times’ chief fashion critic, Vanessa Friedman, Collins’ pantsuit was highly symbolic, a certifiable “ceremonial public expression of female strength.” According to Friedman, Collins knew exactly what she was doing when she donned this “symbolic armor.”
The New York Times was also gentle about Collins’ conservative past when announcing that she had won the primetime slot; it simply reported that Collins had “cut her teeth at the conservative news site The Daily Caller.”
Collins was hired by the Daily Caller to be an entertainment reporter after she graduated from the University of Alabama in 2014. For years, she wrote blog posts almost exclusively about celebrities and scantily clad women. At the time, the Daily Caller had just implemented a payment system under which writers would receive a base pay, plus a bonus that was determined by how much web traffic they drove. Accordingly, Collins spent her days writing articles such as: “Rihanna Gives Nerd A Lapdance And He Has No Idea How To React [VIDEO],” “Emma Watson Shows Up In Sheer Lace At Paris Fashion Week,” “Jimmy Fallon Gets A Sneak Peek While Rolling Around With Halle Berry [VIDEO],” “Heidi Klum Was A Knockout This Fourth Of July Weekend [PHOTO],” “Yes, This Smoking Hot Blonde Looks JUST Like Elsa From Frozen [PHOTOS],” and “Cameron Diaz’s ‘Sex Tape’ Is Coming Out Soon. These Esquire Photos Will Have To Do For Now.”
Collins didn’t just write this type of article at the beginning of her tenure at the Daily Caller. In 2016, for example, the year before she joined CNN, she evidently put together a slideshow headlined “11 Times Emily Ratajkowski Was Practically Naked [SLIDESHOW].”
Eventually, Collins moved on to covering the Trump campaign. She was then promoted to being the Daily Caller’s White House correspondent. Collins kept her articles completely news based and factual. Much of the content in her Trump-focused articles at the Daily Caller consists of quotes. The headlines are geared toward a more conservative audience, but it’s likely that an editor chose many of them.
As the Daily Caller’s White House correspondent, Collins had access to White House press briefings. In a Feb. 3, 2017, press conference, Collins asked Sean Spicer, who was then Trump’s press secretary, what the president was doing about left-wing rioters who had recently been disrupting conservative events, including at the University of California, Berkeley, where provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos had been set to deliver a speech.
Collins was criticized for this question, as many on the left felt it was a gift to Trump rather than an effort to hold power to account. According to Amber Athey, who worked with Collins at the Daily Caller, this was a turning point for Collins.
“She initially started drifting a little bit more toward liberal media after she was criticized for asking what was considered a softball question,” Athey said last week on the Hill’s podcast, Rising.
Athey explained that her experience was that Collins was “not a very political person.” However, Athey said, Collins was “very, very ambitious.” Athey explained that Collins’ shift from the Daily Caller to CNN was thus “the least shocking thing ever.”
In a few media appearances while she worked for the Daily Caller, Collins spoke as though she was delivering conservative talking points. In an appearance on Fox News in 2017, for example, she said of George Soros, “George Soros is this foreign-born left-wing guy who essentially wants to change the nature of our country.” In an appearance with Tucker Carlson, she spoke about Trump’s attacks on the media as though they were a good thing. “Now that they’re not being called on, they can’t control what the news is about, and it’s driving them crazy,” Collins told Carlson.
Collins also dated a conservative, Will Douglas, while she worked for the Daily Caller, and it’s unclear whether they ever broke up. Douglas unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the Texas House as a Republican in 2021.
But on CNN, which she joined in June 2017, Collins is a straight shooter who operates from a liberal perspective. She was famously barred from a press conference in July of 2018 after asking Trump about his former attorney Michael Cohen and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
That incident, like no other, cemented Collins’ position as a rising liberal media star who was unafraid to take it to Trump. Many in the liberal press, including NBC’s Hallie Jackson, came out to defend her, and even Fox News issued a statement condemning the Trump administration’s decision to bar her. Collins was never again accused of asking Trump softball questions.
The town hall that Collins moderated last week with Trump did not go well for the network, as many on the left perceived that Trump had steamrolled Collins and seized the opportunity to platform his beliefs. Most on the left, however, did not blame Collins for what they saw as a disaster; instead, most placed the fault on CNN’s higher-ups for hosting the town hall in the first place.
For instance, Amanda Carpenter, who previously worked for Sen. Ted Cruz and now writes for the Bulwark, tweeted: “The problem is not Kaitlan Collins. The problem is a media establishment and a Republican Party that is dedicated to normalizing a radical and dangerous political figure. Applause and ratings are not more important than our democracy.”
CNN praised Collins’ performance and defended the town hall. On CNN’s editorial call, for instance, Licht said: “I want to kick off by congratulating Kaitlan for what I can only call a masterful performance last night. I couldn’t be more proud of her and the team that supported us on the ground and back home.”
Collins’ performance was not universally defended on the left. On the View, after Alyssa Farah Griffin praised Collins for her moderation of the town hall, saying that it was inspiring to see “a 30-year-old journalist take it to one of the most powerful men in the world,” co-host Sunny Hostin disagreed, stating, “I don’t think that she was prepared.”
The increased media attention generated by the town hall caused hardline leftists to dredge up some of Collins’ old appearances on Fox News. But mainstream outlets seemed to ignore these — they continued to present Collins’ past at the Daily Caller as an opportunity for CNN to better portray itself as an unbiased news source, which has been one of Licht’s top priorities since he came on as CEO of CNN last year.
For example, the Wall Street Journal reported last week, “Ms. Collins’s Alabama upbringing and conservative bona fides—she covered Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential run as the White House correspondent for the Daily Caller—have quickly made her a key player in Mr. Licht’s stable.”
Licht has already made one awful decision when it comes to Collins, as CNN’s morning show, which he engineered, has been a disaster. The ratings are awful, and the hosts took their off-air distaste for one another to the screen. That disaster is on par with the rest of CNN’s performance — on Friday during primetime, Newsmax beat CNN in the ratings. Thus, Licht is desperately hoping that putting Collins in primetime will cause him to strike ratings gold.
Collins’ show, which does not yet have a name, is unique from its 9 p.m. competition — Fox’s Sean Hannity Tonight and MSNBC’s Alex Wagner Tonight — in that it is billed as a news show rather than an opinion show. The idea is that it will focus on only one or two major news topics of a day.
Licht wrote in a newsroom memo that “Kaitlan will expose uncovered angles and challenge conventional wisdom to make sure viewers are seeing a story from every side.”
Since Collins has long based her reporting at CNN on a leftist perspective, viewers of Collins’ news show are very likely to find that it closely resembles CNN’s leftist opinion shows; it will simply be dressed up as unbiased reporting from someone with a supposedly conservative past — one that, in reality, saw Collins repeat the questions her employer wanted to hear and write such articles as “11 Times Emily Ratajkowski Was Practically Naked [SLIDESHOW].”
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