Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight made me laugh with this:
I'm not sure how Tucker Carlson is getting one of the best cable news spots in TV after Jon Stewart OBLITERATED/CRUSHED him in 2004.
— (((Harry Enten))) (@ForecasterEnten) January 5, 2017
Ah, yes, the famous Crossfire segment that launched the Stewart legend on the left. Thirteen years later, he’s retired from “The Daily Show” while Carlson has the 9 p.m. slot on cable’s highest-rated news channel. Although, with Fox transforming into a Trump propaganda outlet replete with Julian Assange cameos and MSNBC destined to become hysterical and Olbermann-esque in its opposition to the White House, it’s hard to goof on Stewart for having been bearish on the future of the medium at the time.
Anyway, Carlson to 9 p.m. is a no-brainer. He debuted to big ratings in November. He’s a cable-news veteran, having hosted shows on both CNN and MSNBC as well as the weekend version of “Fox & Friends” on Fox, so he won’t be daunted by his new responsibilities or the limelight that comes with having a big audience. He’s smart and likable, and he was pro-Trump before the first votes had been cast in Iowa this past winter. He’s also had a knack so far for splashy interviews that get attention online, from the Kurt Eichenwald fiasco to the Lauren Duca face-off to confronting Garry Kasparov over why Americans should have to go die in Estonia. Choosing him over one of the straight-news personalities in their stable is conclusive proof, if any was still needed, that Fox primetime will be all-in on Trump for the next four years.
2017 starts off with a BANG! as FOX NEWS executives will announce Tucker Carlson replaces the vacating Megyn Kelly at 9 PM ET, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned…
“Tucker has already proven to be an audience powerhouse at 7 PM, now sky is the limit!” an insider explains.
“FOX NEWS will not be tamed.”
As I write this, Fox critics are already grumbling that this is the first time in many years that the network’s 8-11 bloc won’t include a woman host. (Before Megyn Kelly took over at 9, Hannity occupied that slot with Greta Van Susteren at 10.) That was predictable, and it put pressure on Fox to replace Carlson at 7 p.m. with a woman. Which it has: Martha MacCallum will now anchor there, although Fox’s press release doesn’t make clear whether that move is permanent or temporary. MacCallum’s new show will be called “The First 100 Days.” What happens when Trump’s first hundred days are over? Er, not sure. Maybe they’re treating this as a trial run, with MacCallum to take over full-time at 7 this spring if she delivers ratings.
If she doesn’t, I’d guess they’ll opt for someone more combative to replace her. MacCallum is from the straight-news side of Fox; Tucker, who has the timeslot now, is from the pundit side, and his predecessor at that hour, Greta, was sort of in between. Rolling the dice on a younger, more inexperienced host is safer at 7 than it is at 9, when the network expects its biggest ratings. When Drudge broke the news about Carlson this morning, I assumed that Fox was clearing 7 for an opinionated woman host who’d be willing to mix it up with guests, whether Kimberly Guilfoyle or an outsider like Dana Loesch or Tomi Lahren. Maybe they still are; it could be that MacCallum’s gig is temporary by design, with Fox buying time while it looks for a permanent replacement.
Exit question: Did Fox get caught by surprise when Kelly decided to leave? Promoting two in-house stars feels a bit like a scramble, plugging a hole that they never expected would need to be filled. And who can blame them after they reportedly threw $25 million a year at Kelly to stay?