Eliot Spitzer's been back as a full-time cable news host for almost a month now.
So the former New York governor's had plenty of time to warm up for his first grilling from the press about his new show, "Viewpoint," on Current TV, which replaced Keith Olbermann's 8 p.m. broadcast following Olbermann's abrupt ouster from the network on March 30.
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On a conference call Tuesday afternoon, Spitzer described "Viewpoint" as not "fundamentally dissimilar" from his canceled primetime show on CNN, "but I think we'll have a bit more latitude here to be a bit more openly ideological and to have more fun with the guests," he said, thanking Current TV executives Al Gore and Joel Hyatt for giving him the opportunity to get back on the air.
Elaborating on that remark a few minutes later, Spitzer said: "I just think the nature of this show is that we are openly progressive. The avowed purpose of Current is to be a voice for progressive politics, so it's clear. I will not in any way pull my punches from being intellectually rigorous with people on either side, to the left, the right, up or down from me politically. Rigor is the expectation."
For some reporters on the call, it seemed a bit of deja vu. About 10 months earlier, there had been a similar media availabilty with Olbermann to herald the premiere of his new Current show, "Countdown," which was seen as a savior for a channel struggling to build up an audience big enough to make anyone at the big-three cable news networks flinch.
At the time, Olbermann said he wasn't concerned about ratings out of the gate, but rather, with how many people would be watching a few years down the line. As of his termination from Current, where the famously combative anchor clashed with management over a reported lack of resources, he was pulling in an average of 177,000 total viewers, a drop in the bucket compared to the more than 1 million viewers Olbermann had when he left MSNBC last January.
The ratings for Spitzer's debut looked anemic by comparison. But like his predecessor, he said there were no set benchmarks.
"Look, my mom watches, she's happy. I've got a bunch of friends who love it," he said. "I don't have numerical, or geographic, or any other targets at this point. We are working to build a foundation. It takes time. We have work to do to let people know where we are."
To that effect, Spitzer, who does not have a personal Twitter account, said he nonetheless plans to use social media to promote the show, as Olbermann did (quite prolifically).
"I'm sure I will have a Twitter account, I think its @CurrentSpitzer, and we will build that over time," he said.
Spitzer said he hadn't spoken with Olbermann since his controversial departure from Current. He also said that the Olbermann saga, which has ended up in court, didn't give him any pause in joining the network: "I'm thrilled to be a part of it and I'm having great fun."
Toward the end of the call, Spitzer was asked what he thought Olbermann's strengths were as an anchor, and what, if anything, he learned from his "messy" exit.
"Keith brought intellect, intensity, an audience," he said. "Keith is just one of those magnetic personalities that you like to watch. I've watched a lot of different reporters or anchors or people on TV and tried to figure out what makes them so persuasive or interesting. ... I can't be any one of 'em. I don't pretend that I can bring the effervescence of Katie Couric or the smooth charm of Anderson Cooper or the right-wing stuff of Bill O'Reilly. You have to be different. The only lesson I've taken from this is, you've gotta be yourself. If it works? Wonderful. If it doesn't, don't take it as a personal slight. So I will be myself and I will try to provide some interesting thoughts and entertainment."