Two months after being bumped from CNN's morning show, Bill Hemmer signed yesterday with rival Fox News Channel as a daytime anchor and occasional correspondent.
Hemmer is the biggest name to jump from the Time Warner network to Rupert Murdoch's operation since Greta Van Susteren did so in 2002. The three-year deal is said to be worth more than $1 million a year at the outset.
Hemmer said he had "a fantastic 10-year run" at CNN, but was unrestrained in heaping praise on Fox and noting its ratings lead over his former employer.
Pronouncing himself "thrilled" to join "the cable news leader," he said: "I've watched Fox News grow for nine solid years. I find it to be an aggressive network. I find people show up every day to win, and that appeals to me . . . For several years, Fox has been the New York Yankees, and that's a tough lineup to crack. I just feel fortunate to be given the opportunity to play on that team."
A contract dispute with CNN became public in May when Hemmer told a reporter the Atlanta-based network wanted him to give up his co-anchor spot on "American Morning" and move to Washington to become senior White House correspondent. Hemmer, who wanted to stay in New York for personal reasons, was soon replaced on the show by Miles O'Brien, who shares anchoring duties with the similarly named but unrelated Soledad O'Brien.
There were some rumblings at Fox about signing an ex-CNN staffer, but Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes praised Hemmer's "strong reporting and anchoring skills." Hemmer, who was courted by several networks, said Ailes was a "significant part" of his decision because "he has a proven track record of winning and has a vision."
CNN, which has recently canceled "Crossfire," "Capital Gang" and "Inside Politics," will launch "The Situation Room" next month, a 3-to-6 p.m. block that anchor Wolf Blitzer says will feature a behind-the-scenes look at newsgathering.
Howard Kurtz hosts CNN's weekly media program.