CNN’s Michael Smerconish prides himself on not following party lines. He’s liberal on certain issues, conservative on others and often polarizing nonetheless. A diverse career has included substituting for both Bill O’Reilly and Chris Matthews on MSNBC. Yes, he’s filled in for both O’Reilly and Matthews.
While many people know him from radio, Smerconish has written numerous books and currently hosts “Smerconish” Saturdays on CNN.
TVNewser: The most recent Pew Research poll focused on political polarization and media habits. Where does CNN fit in today’s world of media polarization?
Smerconish: The Pew data is a total confirmation of what I’ve been saying for years – the 80% of us who are not guided by a doctrinaire ideology have ceded the debate to the 20% who are consistently conservative or consistently liberal, and it has taken the country in a hyper-partisan direction We need to take it back. Real political power in this country rests in the middle, not in the extremes, but right now, “rests” is the operative word. CNN is perfectly situated to be the go-to source for this segment of society, and indeed, in Pew’s category of those with “mixed” political views, CNN is their main source for news which is why the network is a perfect fit for me.
TVNewser: Why do some partisan political shows have a hard time making it in this landscape?
Smerconish: Hard time? I’d argue the partisan political shows that push a singular point of view have too easy of a time making it in this landscape. The rote, paint by numbers form of broadcasting gets rewarded by cultivating support from very loyal, not necessarily very numerous, supporters. Passion takes precedence. That’s the same problem we have with the electorate.
TVNewser: How does your show serve a purpose to viewers?
Smerconish: By standing alone as one, which reflects the opinion of the host, but not in a way that is wedded to ideology. I view my role as one of educating and entertaining based on the news of the day, with the freedom to offer a perspective that will not reflect Republican or Democratic talking points.
TVNewser: What’s your dream ticket for the ‘16 Presidential Election?
Smerconish: My dream presidential candidate sounds like he was sent over from Hollywood casting: Grew up in public housing, fought for his country in Vietnam, attended Harvard on a scholarship, had a distinguished career in Congress, served two terms as a popularly elected governor, and was tapped as the nation’s first Secretary of Homeland Security – Tom Ridge. And I’d pair him with an equally well credentialed former governor (of Utah, re-elected with 78% of the vote!) who served as UN Ambassador to China – Jon Huntsman. Two smart, independent thinkers. Now the real question – who takes the top of the ticket? I say let them rotate.
TVNewser: Best cheeseteak in Philly… Pat’s, Geno’s or neither?
Smerconish: C’mon, I’m not a tourist, I live here. Give me the hot roasted pulled pork with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe from DiBruno Brothers.