Fox News once dedicated its 7pm. and 11 p.m. time slots to relatively simple news broadcasts. Now, those hours are filled with host-led opinion shows that denounce Democrats and defend former President Donald J. Trump’s worldview.
For seven years, Juan Williams was the lone liberal voice on “The Five,” the network’s popular afternoon chat show. On Wednesday, he announced that he was leaving the program after months of severe setback from his Conservative co-hosts. Many Fox News viewers hailed his exit on social media.
Donna Brazile, the former Democratic Party leader, was hired by Fox News to a high degree in 2019 as the dissenting voice for its political reporting. She criticized Mr Trump and spoke passionately about the Black Lives Matter movement, which other moderators on the network often demonized. Ms. Brazile has since left Fox News; Last week she quietly started a new job at ABC.
On-screen and off-screen, in subtle and open ways, Fox News has adapted to the post-Trump era by moving in a single direction: Trumpward.
The network has rewarded pro-Trump experts like Greg Gutfeld and Dan Bongino with time windows. Some opinion leaders who dared to criticize the former president in the air have been replaced. And within Fox News coverage, journalists have privately voiced their concern that the network is less focused on direct coverage than it has in the past.
The shifts at Fox News, controlled by father-and-son moguls Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch, are a consequence of an existential moment for a cable broadcaster inhabited by Trump cheerleaders like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham: the 2020 election.
Fox News audience ratings fell sharply after the network called early on election night that Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential candidate, was wearing Arizona and later declared him the winner, even as Mr. Trump brought up lies about fraud. In light of the viewer’s revolt, the network removed dissenting voices and put a new focus on right-wing commentary.
In January, the network fired veteran politics editor Chris Stirewalt, who had been a screen face of Mr Biden’s early call in Arizona. This month brought a new editor to the Washington office: Kerri Kupec, a former spokeswoman for Mr. Trump’s Attorney General William P. Barr. She had no journalistic experience.
Financially, the formula has brought Murdochs results: after a rare loss to arch-rivals CNN and MSNBC in January, Fox News’ rating has rebounded; the station is again Nielsen leader in cable news. In May, Fox News is well on its way to more than double CNN’s prime-time viewership.
His new opinion shows at 7 and 11 – with segments lamenting “culture breaking” and attacking Mr Biden – attract a larger audience than the news programs it replaced. And the right-wing niche network Newsmax failed to maintain its audience growth after the elections.
Partiality plays a good role in cable news, a lesson not lost on other broadcaster programmers chasing tired viewers. Liberal MSNBC has expanded the show hosted by anti-Trump commentator Nicolle Wallace; it also replaced the moderate Chris Matthews at 7 p.m. with partisan commentator Joy Reid. Last week, CNN ditched one of its Conservative chief commentators, Rick Santorum, after being criticized for comments made about Native Americans.
“Conservatives have long-held suspicions that the mainstream media is in the tank for the Democrats and the left,” said Ryan Williams, a Republican strategist and longtime Mitt Romney associate who has occasionally appeared on the network. “For many years Fox News was seen as the only outlet that didn’t have a shilling for the other side. Liberals may doubt the power of Fox News, but it still attracts a sizeable audience for a reason. “
Fox News says its coverage remains robust. And in a way, the Murdochs make a rational business decision by following the Conservatives who are at the heart of Fox News audiences; Recent polls show that more than three-quarters of Republicans want Trump to run for office in 2024.
But under Roger Ailes, the network’s founder who shaped its appearance, Fox News raised liberal slides like Alan Colmes, a Democrat who shared the same billing with Hannity in prime-time until late 2008, and moderators like Williams.
“Roger’s view was that you had to have a certain unpredictability and challenge the audience; You couldn’t just read Republican talking points every night, ”said Susan R. Estrich, a Democratic attorney and former commentator at Fox News who negotiated Mr. Ailes’ exit from the network amid his sexual misconduct scandal.
Ms. Estrich recalled that Mr. Ailes defended Megyn Kelly, the former Fox News presenter, when Mr. Trump, then presidential candidate, assaulted her in a misogynistic manner. Now, she said, “instead of trying to expand its audience, Fox News is narrowing it down and digging in.”
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Ms. Brazile said she left Fox News of her own volition.
“Fox has not censored my views in any way,” she wrote in an email. “Everyone treated me politely like a colleague.” Ms. Brazile added: “I think it is important that all media expose their audiences to both progressive and conservative views. With President Biden’s election and first 100 days, I got what I wanted on Fox News.
Mr. Williams will remain with Fox News as a senior policy analyst; The network said in a statement that he asked to be closer to his family in Washington instead of commuting to New York, where “The Five” is being recorded. Fox News said another Liberal host would replace him. Among the contenders is a newly hired Fox Stable employee, former Democratic Congressman Harold Ford Jr.
Mr. Williams left after his exchanges with colleagues like Mr. Gutfeld and Jesse Watters got harder. “The Five” has long been a place of heated, if friendly, debates, but Mr. Williams has been repeatedly ridiculed and shouted down for accusing Trump of lying about the election and fueling the January 6th uprising in the Capitol.
Mr. Williams also noticed a Fox News report on Mr. Biden on the broadcast falsely claiming he wanted to limit American consumption of Hamburg. (Fox News later issued a correction.)
His main opponent, Mr. Gutfeld, started at 11 p.m. Last month’s show designed to compete with late-night tariffs like “The Daily Show”. “Gutfeld!” has attracted a larger audience than the previous 11pm. Offer, a newscast anchored by Shannon Bream that has been postponed until midnight.
Fox News is still designating a permanent host for its new 7pm. Opinion hour that is now a reliable place for pro-Trump commentary. It was the place where Tucker Carlson who was on the station at 8:00 p.m. Host, made his remarks on White Replacement Theory that sparked an outcry from the Anti-Defamation League.
A pro-Trump drift at Fox News isn’t new: George Will, a traditional Conservative who opposed Mr Trump’s candidacy, lost his contract as a contributor in 2017. Shepard Smith, a news anchor who was tough on Mr Trump, went out in 2019.
However, some Fox News journalists say privately that they are increasingly concerned with the direction of the network. Kristin Fisher, one of the network’s rising stars in Washington and a White House correspondent, left Fox News earlier this month despite the network’s efforts to keep her. She was criticized by viewers in November after a section in which she aggressively exposed lies about election fraud by Trump’s lawyers.
Long-time Washington bureau chief Bill Sammon resigned in January after internal criticism of his handling of election coverage, around the time Mr. Stirewalt was fired. (Mr. Stirewalt was fired from Fox News along with around 20 digital journalists, which the network attributed to a realignment of “business and reporting structure to meet the demands of this new era.”)
Mr. Sammon has been virtually replaced by Doug Rohrbeck, a producer with extensive news experience on Bret Baier’s news program and Chris Wallace’s Sunday program. Still, some Fox journalists were surprised when the network hired Ms. Kupec, the former Barr spokeswoman, to work under Mr. Rohrbeck.
A Fox News spokesman said the network prides itself on the journalism of its ranks, citing examples including foreign correspondent Trey Yingst’s coverage of Israel, Jennifer Griffin’s coverage of the Pentagon, and Bill’s coverage of the Mexican border crisis Melugin and Aishah Hasnie.
Mr Baier, the network’s main political anchor, announced in May that he had extended his contract until 2025. Together with Mr. Wallace from “Fox News Sunday” he receives regular updated interviews; A recent conversation with Wyoming Rep Liz Cheney was irritated when she accused Fox News of perpetuating Mr Trump’s lies about the election, and Mr Baier replied that he had made it clear to viewers that Mr Biden was the legitimate winner .
Fox News has a smaller international footprint than competitors like CNN, but it has several overseas offices and reporters in Israel covering the recent violence there. On Wednesday the network announced an expansion of Fox News International, a streaming service available in 37 countries in Asia and Europe.
Despite continued criticism from liberals, Fox News remains a financial juggernaut for the Murdoch empire; It is expected to generate record ad revenue this year, the network said.
While its program decisions are aimed at attracting Trump supporters, Fox News faces an obstacle: Mr. Trump. The former president has upheld his stinging criticism of Fox News, which he alleged betrayed him by calling for Mr Biden to be elected.
On Friday, Mr Trump renewed his criticism in a statement he made in response to a critical speech by former House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, a board member of Fox Corporation since 2019.
“Fox is totally lost and has become a very different place,” the former president wrote after Mr. Ryan joined the board. Mr. Trump added, “Fox will never be the same!”