Former ABC Nightline anchor Ted Koppel told CNN’s Brian Stelter that the network’s ratings “would be in the toilet” without President Trump’s daily newsmaking.
Koppel was participating in a panel Monday evening at the National Press Club when he made his remarks about the media’s coverage of Trump.
“I think that we’ve left out a key word. Everybody here keeps talking about ideology and politics. Money, money, money. Donald Trump has been very very good for baseball,” said Koppel, referring to the news business.
“He has been wonderful for the industry. Your boss (Jeff Zucker) acknowledged as much a number of months ago during the campaign,” Koppel said.
One of the panelists noted Leslie Moonves, former CEO of CBS, also acknowledged as much when he said that Trump was “damn good for CBS” during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“But that means what? If ratings are up, that means what?” asked CNN’s Brian Stelter who hosts Reliable Sources, a program that deals with the media.
“Oh, the ratings are up, it means you can’t do without Donald Trump,” Koppel replied. “You would be lost without Donald Trump. CNN’s ratings would be in the toilet without Donald Trump.”
“Ted, you know that’s not true. You’re playing for laughs,” Stelter pushed back.
Koppel fired back at Stelter.
“Hold on a second, Brian,” Koppel said. “What were the ratings before Trump, and what are the ratings now?”
“I would say we might be up 20, we might be up 30 percent, we might be up 40 percent. If we go back down 40 percent, that’s OK too,” Stelter said. “I reject the premise that these networks are making so much money off of Trump and thus we benefit from it.”
Koppel then proposed moving to discuss MSNBC since CNN was clearly a “sensitive subject.”
“Tell me for a moment if you will – let’s get away from CNN. Alright? Sensitive subject. Let’s go to MSNBC – Is there a moment of the day when they are not focusing on Donald Trump or some intimately related subject?” Koppel asked.
Stelter later tweeted about Koppel’s pointed remarks.
“I admire Koppel, but I think the cable news biz is a lot more complex than he makes it seem. Ratings rise, ratings fall. Stories come, stories go. It’s important to cover Trump and it’s important to cover what comes next,” Stelter wrote.
CNN is still in third place in the cable news ratings, but, like MSNBC, its overall ratings are up since Trump took office and profits are at record levels topping $1 billion in 2017.