Charles Barkley's CNN show continues struggling as comments targeting Black Trump voters ignite backlash

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Former NBA superstar Charles Barkley's new gig as a CNN host is not panning out among viewers as he ignited backlash for comments he made about Black Trump supporters. 

Barkley's weekly CNN primetime program "King Charles," co-hosted by Gayle King, has only shed viewers since its debut in November, averaging well below 500,000 total viewers. "King Charles" averaged only 457,000 total viewers this past Wednesday.

The show rarely generates major headlines for the liberal network, but it did receive negative attention during its special broadcast on Saturday when Barkley threatened to assault any Black Trump supporter sporting his mugshot on their clothes. 

NBA HALL OF FAMER CHARLES BARKLEY THREATENS ANY BLACK PERSON FLAUNTING DONALD TRUMP'S MUGSHOT

"If I see a Black person walking around with a Trump mugshot, I’m gonna punch him in the face."

King quickly tried to shut it down, saying, "You don't mean that." Barkley was quick to retort.

"Oh, I mean that sincerely!" he said. 

Barkley's comments were in response to remarks former President Trump made to a group of Black conservatives, suggesting he has earned more support among Black voters after he was hit with 91 indictments.

"You see Black people walking around with my mugshot – you know they do shirts," Trump said to the crowd. 

The CNN host said it was insulting for Trump to compare his criminal charges to the plight of Black people under the justice system.  

CHARLES BARKLEY RANTS ABOUT BLACK PEOPLE WEARING DONALD TRUMP MUGSHOT SHIRTS AGAIN: ‘FREAKING IDIOT’

Barkley walked back the threat on Wednesday following major blowback, but he maintained his disdain for the mugshot-wearing Black voters.

"I want to make it perfectly clear… If you’re a Black person and you wearing a Donald Trump mugshot, you are a freaking idiot," Barkley said. "And I’m only saying ‘Freakin’ idiot because they won’t let me say what I really wanna say. But you can figure it out. It starts with an F."

King later cracked that Barkley was not going to go around "randomly attacking people in the street," to which Barkley replied, "Unless they had Trump sneakers on, too."

"King Charles" was the brainchild of ousted CNN boss Chris Licht. Licht recruited King, whom he had previously worked with as the executive producer of "CBS This Morning" (King still co-hosts, now called "CBS Mornings"), and relied on in-house talent within the Warner Bros. Discovery umbrella as Barkley remains a popular NBA analyst for CNN's sister network TNT.

Both King and Barkley had been outspoken about how they weren't looking for a new job until Licht approached them, then embraced the idea of having each other as co-hosts. 

But Barkley remained candid about CNN's dire straits. Last year, as talks were underway, Barkley openly referred to CNN as a "s---show" and joked he was "jumping on the Titanic" after the show was announced.

CNN'S 'KING CHARLES' ANOTHER RATINGS DISASTER FOR STRUGGLING NETWORK, LOSING 20% OF VIEWERS SINCE ITS DEBUT

"King Charles" took a page from Rachel Maddow's playbook, airing just once a week on Wednesdays instead of broadcasting every weeknight, something Barkley had refused to do.  

The show attempted to break the mold of CNN's typical programming, focusing less on politics and inviting cultural figures like rapper Fat Joe and Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr as its inaugural guests. Actors Billy Crystal, Niecy Nash, Keegan-Michael Key and Corey Hawkins appeared, as well as a rotation of CNN personalities. King and Charles would also occasionally chat with newsmakers like Secretary of State Antony Blinkin and former Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley.

Licht did not last long enough to see his creation come to fruition, as he was fired months before the debut of "King Charles" due to internal strife. The program marked a last-ditch effort by CNN's top brass to seek outside talent to juice its diminished ratings, but it has so far failed to attract large audiences. 

Fox News' Brian Flood, Scott Thompson and Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report. 

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