Opinion: ‘Piers Morgan Tonight’ loses Christine O’Donnell, finds viewers

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Last Wednesday, former Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell objected to a line of questioning and walked out of an interview on CNN’s ‘Piers Morgan Tonight,’ where she was a guest to promote her nonfiction book ‘Troublemaker.’

If O’Donnell intended to use the kerfuffle to boost sales of her book, apparently it didn’t work, but it did have a positive effect on Morgan’s numbers the following day.


The 9 p.m. Eastern talk show led CNN’s lineup on Thursday, both in total viewers and in the advertiser-appproved target adults 25-54 demographic. ‘Piers Morgan Tonight’ drew 809,000 total viewers and 241,000 in the demo. It landed a close third for the night behind MSNBC’s ‘The Rachel Maddow Show.’

Both placed well behind Fox News Channel’s ‘Hannity,’ which drew in just more than....

...2 million total viewers, with 524,000 in the target demographic. The bump in Morgan’s ratings likely came from heavy media coverage of the O’Donnell walkout, which piqued curiosity of viewers to tune in to find out what happened. Morgan obliged, including a recap of the incident and analysis. Compare this to the ratings on Wednesday the 17th, the actual day of the O’Donnell interview, in which Morgan drew 695,000 total viewers, with 234,000 in the target demographic, a distant third to second-place ‘Maddow’ and top-rated ‘Hannity.’

But, the announcement that O’Donnell was on the show may have helped some, since Morgan’s Tuesday numbers were much lower, with 589,000 total viewers and 144,000 in the demographic.

So, while having controversial Republicans on the show is good for Morgan, irritating them to the point where they walk off in a huff is even better.

But, doesn’t always turn out that way, as seen in this spirited exchange from June between Morgan and conservative firebrand Ann Coulter, who was also on the show to promote her book.

(Coulter did cancel a July return to ‘Piers Morgan Tonight,’ tweeting she was instead going to be on his competitor, ‘Hannity,’ earning herself a lifetime ban from Morgan, also announced on Twitter.)

Not all conservatives sided with O’Donnell in her dispute with Morgan, such as L. Brent Bozell, president of conservative media watchdog group Media Research Center, and founder of

In an opinion piece for, he said O’Donnell’s ‘behavior was beyond indefensible. It was downright bizarre.’ Click here for the full text of his remarks.

Nevertheless, it was a high point for the normally ratings-challenged ‘Piers Morgan Tonight,’ which became comic fodder on another network.

In his other capacity as a judge on NBC’s ‘America’s Got Talent,’ Morgan had to endure a roast from comedic contesant J. Chris Newberg, in which he commented the show is ‘broadcast in almost 100 countries and watched by almost 100 people. Your ratings are so bad, I heard Leno might take over.’

For the record, Morgan did call Newberg’s routine ‘funny,’ but viewers voting at home did not advance the comic to the next round of the competition.

On Monday, Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman appears on ‘Piers Morgan Tonight.’ It’s a pretaped interview -- click here for a clip -- and apparently he didn’t storm off. Oh, well.

He does characterize the attitude of of ‘tea party'-backed GOP House members concerning the recent debt crisis as ‘complete lunacy,’ so that should help somewhat. But he also says President Obama has ‘failed us,’ so it may wind up being a wash.


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-- Kate O’Hare

Media critic Kate O’Hare is a regular Ticket contributor. She also blogs about TV at Hot Cuppa TV and is a frequent contributor at entertainment news site Zap2it. Also follow O’Hare on Twitter @KateOH.

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