THIS...was a terrible night for CNN

CNN has had its challenges recently - so much so that chief Jon Klein got the sack - but Wednesday night did nothing to improve the fortunes of the venerable news network. Actually, it was downright terrible, and I don’t care what the ratings say.

First it had a Delaware Senate debate between Democrat Chris Coons and Republican Christine O’Donnell. The only reason you recognize the second name is because it belongs to the candidate that infamously began a recent television ad with the now-famous words, “I am not a witch.”

Admittedly, it was enough to get me to tune in. Not that I was expecting her to suddenly start dancing and casting spells at Coons when he pressed her on creationism, but there was a curiosity factor to see what she was actually like.

And that’s where CNN got screwed: she really is one of us. Well, she really is just another politician, anyway. She was just as canned and boring as any other candidate. Which is to say she actually did pretty well, at least compared to the expectations coming in (she is down around 20 points in the polls).

So CNN unluckily (and by no fault of their own) missed out on some must-see TV, as anyone tuning into see a circus just saw another typical debate and wouldn’t be blamed for moving on.

Realizing this themselves, CNN smartly dumped out of the non-event early and picked up Chilean mine coverage as miner #32 of 33 was being rescued.

That programming decision was not the problem - but how they handled it was. The main voice hosting the miner coverage - none other than CNN’s Eliot Spitzer.

Flanked by his co-host Kathleen Parker and CNN political guru Candy Crowley, the coverage was branded under the umbrella of Spitzer and Parker’s show.

So the bottom line was that CNN was covering one of the biggest news events in recent months live as it should…but this legacy news network that has often distinguished itself as an elite news organization was covering it with host Eliot Spitzer. Seriously.

And it did not go unnoticed, as my shock and disappointment in this decision was shared by others in the media.

On Twitter, New York Magazine’s Josef Adalian (@TVMoJoe) wrote: “Seriously mind-blowing that the disgraced former gov of NY is anchoring coverage of a major news event on CNN. Ted Turner weeps.”

Time magazine’s James Poniewozik (@poniewozik) noted: “If CNN needed a disgraced governor with relevant experience for breaking S American news, they should have hired Mark Sanford.”

And Variety’s Michael Schneider (@franklinavenue) had a little more fun with the decision, joking on Twitter “To be fair, the 34th Chilean miner has finally been located… IN SPITZER’S PANTS! Whoo-yeah!”

I myself immediately called my accountant and asked him to write off all the money I have spent on prostitutes from my taxes. I figure if that is what basically got Spitzer to the role of hosting CNN’s coverage of a massive news event, for me it should be a legitimate job hunting expense.

Bad jokes aside, that Christine O’Donnell turned out to just be another politician was bad luck for CNN. But having Spitzer at the anchor desk for its coverage of a wonderful, high-profile event was just a very bad choice.

I very much hope this…is not the new CNN.