CBS shook the morning news table when it announced that former football player and “Extra” correspondent Nate Burleson would replace longtime journalist Anthony Mason on “CBS This Morning.”
The decision has been widely criticized, but sources say that it was Gayle King who was a driving force in making it happen.
via Page Six:
“Gayle is a huge fan of Nate, and she has more clout than people realize,” one source said.
Another told us King was a “proponent of Nate and was instrumental behind the scenes to make [the deal] happen.”
Sources previously told us Burleson was “being groomed” when he tested out for the spot in June while filling in for Tony Dokoupil, who was on paternity leave. “The morning [shows] are about chemistry, and Gayle clicked with him. That’s hugely important in the mornings,” a third source said.
A CBS spokesperson told us there’s no validity to King influencing the network’s decision to hire Burleson.
“This isn’t true. Leadership in news and sports drove this entirely,” they said.
Another CBS insider insisted “talent was not a part of this,” and said the hire was because of executives Neeraj Khemlani and Shawna Thomas.
“He was electric when he filled in on the show, and Gayle, like everyone else, is excited he’s joining,” they said.
Meanwhile, Drew Barrymore, whose daytime show is on CBS, had also filled in at one point, signaling an “identity crisis” for a morning show that prides itself on rebuffing fluff for hard news.
“It’s a disaster. they keep going back and forth, trying to figure out who they are. They’re having an identity crisis. They are real far behind in third place [in the ratings], and they haven’t been able to get it together since Charlie [Rose was fired],” the second source said.
The third source told us that CBS is desperately trying to recreate the magic King, Norah O’Donnell and disgraced Rose had while “trying to make the show feel younger and more relevant” by hiring Burleson.
“Gayle, Norah and Charlie got so many accolades. The numbers were going up. It was a real bright spot, and then it all fell apart,” the source said. “Gayle had to carry Tony and Anthony Mason to make that show work. No one ever thought that trio was going to match Gayle, Norah and Charlie.”
Burleson joining the team is “a really bitter pill to swallow at CBS News” for other on-air talents, who have jumped from market to market, according to the third insider. “This guy hasn’t done that, but lands one of the best jobs in television — an anchor chair at the third-place morning show is still one of the most coveted.”
It’s probably not the last we’ve heard of any behind-the-scenes scuttlebutt over the new hire. “You’ll hear about it pronto if he starts rubbing people the wrong way. CBS is so leaky,” a source warned.
The job really should’ve gone to a qualified journalist who’s been putting in the work, but that’s not how entertainment television works.