The Fox News Channel fired longtime Fox News Watch moderator Eric Burns last week, saying that they wanted to take the show —a roundtable discussion about the national news media that airs weekly— in a new direction, mainly by focusing more on new media, like the Internet. You know. They wanted to expand their horizons. Play the field a little. Experiment. As you might imagine, Burns, who has been the loyal host of the show for ten years, took the breakup rather hard. Fox didn't know how to be happy, he told the Times today. It didn't even know what it wanted: “I don’t know because I don’t think anybody at Fox knows, except in general terms, that somehow they must catch up with new information sources,” he said. He added that it was actually kind of the network's fault that the relationship wasn’t working, that they had promised advertising that had never come through, and that was what contributed to the show's low ratings. “If that’s not evidence that they don’t want this show to be seen, I don’t know what it is,” he said. Fox begged to differ: I don't think so, a Fox network spokeswoman fired back, denying Burns's claims. Then they dug in the knife: Just so you know, Burns, the spokesperson added, the reason they wanted to see other people was that Burns just wasn't satisfying their needs anymore: "We didn’t feel the current talent would be capable of handling the new direction,” the spokeswoman told the Times. But Fox really can't blame Burns for pining for them. After all, they are kind of great. Probably the best Burns will ever have. It must be hard for him, you know? The spokeswoman added. “Not having a contributor agreement renewed is something that’s very difficult to accept.”
Moderator and a Panelist Ousted at ‘Fox News Watch’ [NYT]
An unlikely champion for the struggling Katie Couric emerged today. Her knight in shining Brooks Brothers is rival Shep Smith, who anchors Fox News' evening newscast. From an interview today on TV Guide's Biz Blog:
TVGuide.com: CBS Evening News tried to do something different last year after they hired Katie Couric, and it was rejected. They didn't try it for long. And was everybody at CBS News on board? Probably not. Did they give it a chance? Did they take the woman who was successful beyond everyone else's dreams in the morning and try to change her into something else after a week? Was there a PR disaster that happened? Did they mismanage it beyond the exclusion of every reasonable thought? I think these are all fair questions. I'm glad we don't operate the way they do.
Today's Times turns our attention to the ethically fraught friendship between Rudy Giuliani and Fox News Channel honcho Roger Ailes: Giuliani had employed Ailes as a media consultant, lobbied for him later, and officiated at his wedding. Once, Rudy even gave him an issue of Wine Spectator! It could thus be reasonably inferred that Roger owes him one. Cue the chart that conclusively proves that Giuliani is getting disproportionate amounts of screen time on FNC: 115 minutes to date, compared to Mitt Romney's 91. There are two underlying assumptions we find a little strange about the Times' alarm over this. First, the thesis that a Republican front-runner, whoever he may be, needs to be best buddies with Ailes to skew FNC's sympathies toward him; and second, that these sympathies can be "skewed" to begin with — which accidentally validates FNC's claims of impartiality in matters that don't involve Rudy. Sure, Romney may have gotten only 91 minutes on Fox News; John Edwards had six.
In Fox News, Giuliani Finds a Friendly Stage [NYT]
Michael Moore's new documentary, Sicko, points out how much money Hillary Clinton raises from health-care companies, and Harvey Weinstein tried to get him to remove a scene about it. Angelina Jolie claimed she was sorry Fox News was banned from her A Mighty Heart premiere, but then she banned Us Weekly and Life & Style (but not People and OK!) from the print-press roundtables. Former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey might adopt a kid with his partner. Rosie O'Donnell really wants to host The Price Is Right, but the show's producers may not be into it. Lindsay Lohan may spend her 21st-birthday party in rehab because she is taking it seriously this time. That, or because Pure won't host a party for her. Former senator Al D'Amato may play a judge on Law & Order.
Laura Bush and the First Twins saw Grey Gardens (the twins laughed; mom did not). Paula Abdul was caught on tape sobbing and complaining about her former publicist, Howard Bragman. (She also claimed she doesn't get drunk or do drugs). Hedge-fund manager Scott Bessent bought the late Pat Kennedy Lawford's co-op for $12 million. Lindsay Lohan is set to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in 21st-birthday-party sponsorships because of her DUI arrest. A waiter head-butted a hostess at Alison in Bridgehampton. Mischa Barton called Cisco Adler after being rushed to the hospital for an allergic reaction, much to the dismay of her dad. A bunch of female celebrities, including Gabrielle Union and Erika Christensen, posed naked for a book. Michael Bublé tried hooking up with Emily Blunt at a hotel but failed. Red Eye contributor Rachel Marsden had to be escorted out of Fox News headquarters for "bizarre and erratic behavior."
• Investment bankers' bonuses could break records again, with one recruiting firm predicting 10 to 15 percent increases. [DealBook/NYT]
• Ben Weston, the chief of Merrill Lynch's hedge-fund development group, stepped down after two years with the firm. [Bloomberg]
• Is "back pain" the new euphemism for buyout deal? The CFO of Palm might know. [Deal Journal/WSJ]
Jared Kushner was caught making out with Ivanka Trump while bowling. While hanging with some ex-CIA spies, Robert De Niro hit the sauna with KGB colonels and fired guns with Taliban warriors. An aide in the Israeli U.N. mission quit after being outed as a DL gay-porn star. NBC paid $2.5 million for the rights to air a Princess Di tribute concert in July, which may have been the reason they also scored an interview with the princes. Surprising Time "100 Most Influential People" includee John Mayer will also perform at the party. Paris Hilton appears in court today for her DUI charges. Jon Stewart and Tom Brokaw helped raise $72 million from hedge-fund bigwigs at a Robin Hood Foundation charity event.
If you watched January's momentous meeting of minds, when Stephen Colbert appeared on the O'Reilly Factor and later that night O'Reilly made a reciprocal visit to the Colbert Report, you remember that Colbert preserved a memento of the world-historical event: He stole a microwave from the Fox News green room, which he displayed on his own show and then planted on his set. So you can imagine our surprise when we found ourselves in the Fox News green room last night — we were going on Red Eye, Greg Gutfeld's absurdist-stoner take on the McLaughlin Group, and, no, we're not proud — and saw what very much seems to be a Colbert Report microwave. We like to think there was a revenge micro-raid by the O'Reilly staff. True? Who knows. We decide; you report.
UPDATE: A reader e-mails: "Oh, New York Magazine, you disappoint me. Anyone who watches The Colbert Report knows that Colbert had that microwave sent over to Fox and had it tricked it out to with a Colbert Report logo so O'Reilly could never forget from whom it came." Thanks, reader. And now we must confess: Colbert is on past our bedtime, and therefore we don't watch it as often as we should. Then we look dumb.
Earlier:When Stephen Met Bill
Last week's shake-up at CNN, in which not-related American Morning anchors Soledad O'Brien and Miles O'Brien were "reassigned" within the network, marked a happy turn of events for Fox News Channel refugee Kiran Chetry, who's becoming a co-anchor of the show. In February, Fox News accused Chetry, who'd been in talks with CNN, of demanding it fire her Fox & Friends co-anchor Gretchen Carlson. Chetry says that didn't happen, but Fox had her escorted from the building, and her husband, Fox weatherman Chris Knowles, had to raid her office to recover her personal belongings. Knowles was released from his Fox News contract the following day. CNN president Jonathan Klein says that Chetry's adjusting well. "I was blown away by her almost encyclopedic knowledge of CNN," he says. "I was amazed that she was even getting reception behind the iron curtain." Watching CNN at Fox News? That alone was probably enough to get her fired. —Emma Rosenblum
Fox News compares Anderson Cooper to Paris Hilton, and CNN isn't happy. (Which we imagine was the point.) Steve Madden will underwrite Fashion Week's Designers for Darfur even though IMG backed out. Hillary Clinton is trying to infuse her campaign with some stand-up comedy. Jeremy Piven jokes that he'd like to settle down with a girlfriend if he weren't "gayer than Liberace in 1972." Parsons fashion chairman Tim Gunn to become chief creative officer of Liz Claiborne (but still do Project Runway). Bill Clinton will not be the next president of Harvard.