Former CNN's Starting Point host will be special correspondent for AJA's primetime news program America Tonight
Soledad O'Brien, the former CNN anchor known for bulldozing Republican surrogates in fact-checking interviews during the 2012 election cycle, is joining Al-Jazeera America as a special correspondent for the channel's planned primetime news program, she announced in a statement Monday.
O'Brien, who most recently hosted the CNN morning program Starting Point, is to contribute short segments as a special correspondent to America Tonight, an hourlong program scheduled to air at 9pm nightly. As part of the deal, O'Brien's production company, Starfish Media, which she started upon leaving CNN in the spring, will produce hourlong documentaries for Al Jazeera America.
"I look forward to beginning a relationship with Al Jazeera America, which has made a commitment to producing quality programming and pursuing underreported stories," O'Brien said in a statement.
O'Brien is part of a mini-migration from CNN to Al Jazeera. America Tonight will be produced by ex-CNN executive producer Kim Bondy. Former CNN anchor Ali Veshi joined Al Jazeera in April.
O'Brien was a contributor to NBC News through the 1990s, culminating with slots on the Today Show and Nightly News. She co-anchored CNN's American Morning from 2003-2007. Her stint as anchor of Starting Point lasted just over a year but produced memorable segments in which she tangled with Republicans promoting the Mitt Romney presidential campaign, including former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, Redstate blogger Erick Erickson and others.
One contentious interview over health care policy with John Sununu, former chief of staff to president George HW Bush, ended with Sununu accusing O'Brien of loyalty to the campaign of president Barack Obama.
"Put an Obama sticker on your forehead when you do this," Sununu said.
O'Brien hit back: "Name-calling to me, and somehow acting as if by repeating a number ... that you can make that stick, that's not true," she said. "You can't just repeat it and make it true, sir."
Al Jazeera America, which has yet to hire a chief executive, has delayed its projected launch from July to August. The Qatar-based Al Jazeera media group already has an English-language channel, but has had difficulty gaining a foothold in the United States because cable companies have been unwilling to distribute it.
In an effort to package its programming for an American audience, Al Jazeera made a deal with former vice president Al Gore earlier this year, buying his Current TV channel for a generous $500m. Gore himself is said to have made about $100m in the deal, which opened the way to a new distribution agreement, Al Jazeera told the media site Deadline.