CNN's New Chemistry Set: O'Brien & O'Brien

By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Rick Squarejaw is heading to the Land of Pursuing Opportunities Elsewhere and Miles O'Brien will replace him as co-anchor of CNN's ayem show "American Morning," joining Soledad O'Brien for a three-hour, all-O'Brien weekday block on the cable news network.

Squarejaw, aka Bill Hemmer, is bowing out of the network he's called home for a decade on June 17. He does so after turning down the opportunity to become CNN's senior White House correspondent.

Jack Cafferty, resident Angry Old White Man, also is leaving "American Morning."

He's being shipped over to CNN's new 3 p.m. show, where he will join Happy, Dopey and Grumpy -- otherwise known as former "Crossfire" banterers Paul Begala, James Carville and Robert Novak -- along with a slew of political analysts, a former terrorism adviser to President George W., a former defense secretary, a former Homeland Security inspector general, an ex-acting director of the CIA and a sprinkling of generals, for a fun-filled three hours anchored by Wolf "Look, the Paint -- It's Drying!" Blitzer.

Hemmer's keeping a low profile, which is understandable given that his contract runs a few more months but CNN has given him the go-ahead to talk to other news outlets about possible employment.

So yesterday all he had to say about the change was the following statement: "I have enjoyed working with CNN for the past 10 years and the opportunity to report on countless historical moments has been wonderful. However, at this point in my career, it's time for me to move forward with a new set of challenges."

In mid-May, when reports of the possible anchor switch hit the Internet, Hemmer was much more chatty, telling The Post's Howard Kurtz, "So CNN leaked word; that's the tactic they've chosen" and adding, "It's no secret that other outlets have expressed interest in me" and "CNN has offered me a position at the White House, a good position by many estimations, but I am weighing my options. . . . What does CNN have for me to continue doing there?"

Yesterday, CNN/U.S. President Jonathan Klein insisted the network did not leak the report.

"We would never have done that. We denigrate that as a tactic," he said, adding, "Certainly in this case it wouldn't have served any purpose."

The decision to replace Hemmer with O'Brien -- Miles that is -- was one of "chemistry," Klein explained.

O'Brien's got it; Hemmer, it seems, did not.

"What's vital in the morning is chemistry between anchors," Klein told The TV Column. "Watching Miles handle 'Live From,' where he was paired with a smart, vibrant, fun, female anchor" -- Kyra Phillips -- "and seeing how generous he was in sharing the spotlight and supporting and helping the co-anchor to shine; to me he's the perfect complement to Soledad, who is smart, vibrant, fun . . . and the mother of four."

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