So, who's going to replace Megyn Kelly at 9 p.m. on Fox News?

It’s got to be Julian Assange, right? If Fox is planning to go all-in on pro-Trump and/or pro-Russian propaganda, they ought to go all-in. Although this could work too:

A few random thoughts on the news of the day:

1. This seems like a lot of lead time for a big-name anchor to jump from one network to another.

Kelly’s going to do her nightly show at Fox for six more months with her looming departure hanging over her head and the heads of everyone at Fox? If some scandal involving NBC breaks during that time, how will she cover it? Will Fox pull her off the air soon and start rotating in guest hosts like Sandra Smith and Shannon Bream until July?

2. Vanity Fair ran several stories over the last few months claiming that Fox News made Kelly a mega-bucks offer which, surprisingly, no other networks seemed interested in matching. The two outlets named in this piece from December as making the most serious approaches to her were CNN and ABC. (The story notes that she was also in talks with NBC as an aside near the end of the piece.) Drudge named CNN as a top suitor as well. I wonder if Kelly ended up taking less money to go to NBC or if the leaks to Vanity Fair about other networks being keen on her were strategic disinformation planted by Kelly herself to make NBC (and Fox?) up its offer.

3. Relatedly, it’s surprising that Kelly would trade a nightly primetime gig on the most-watched cable news network for a daytime gig, which promises to be more soft-focus and less hard-news, plus a weekly Sunday night newsmagazine. You can imagine her giving up her prestige slot at Fox for a similarly prestige slot anchoring the NBC Nightly News or the “Today” show, but a daytime slot is unexpected. I assume that was a lifestyle choice more than a money thing: Kelly has young children, and a daytime slot means more time with them after school than a morning or evening slot would.

4. Also surprising: Rupert Murdoch’s sons, James and Lachlan, who are gradually taking over control of the network from dad, reportedly really, really like Kelly. Some suspect that they made her a mega-bucks offer because they’re hoping to change Fox from a strongly partisan knife-fighting operation in the Roger Ailes mold to something with more of a focus on hard news a la Sky News in Britain, another Murdoch holding. Kelly, the most straight-news member of Fox’s primetime line-up, would have been a linchpin of that. Instead the Murdochs suddenly have a vacuum at 9 p.m. and find themselves at a crossroads on Fox’s mission. Should they stick with, or even double down on, Fox’s image as a partisan enforcer for Trump’s GOP or should they start building up the hard-news stable and inserting them into key timeslots, like primetime?

5. The answer to that question will decide who gets Kelly’s hour — or, if they decide to move Tucker Carlson’s new show to 9 p.m., who’ll get the 7 p.m. slot he currently occupies. It’s virtually a lock, I think, that the new addition to the line-up will be a woman. If not, Fox will have five male-anchored shows starting at 6 p.m. with Bret Baier through the end of Hannity’s show at 11 p.m. They’d catch tons of flak for that from their critics, especially after the sexual-harassment scandal at the network this past year.

If they go full Trumpist, I think the top contenders are Kimberly Guilfoyle, Judge Jeanine Pirro, and maybe Tomi Lahren, an outsider who’s built her own following in conservative media. Guilfoyle is sufficiently pro-Trump as to have been considered for White House Press Secretary; Pirro is sufficiently pro-Trump as to have choked back tears over his victory in her first show after the election. Pirro’s been hosting her own weekly law-focused show for five years while Guilfoyle’s been co-hosting “The Five” daily, so neither of them are a perfect fit for a “news of the day” hour with a single host at 9. But if you go this route, you’re not looking for hard news; you’re looking for another Hannity who’ll do partisan combat with Trump’s critics. Either of them could do that sufficiently well to keep viewers happy.

If Fox wants something newsier at 9, in the “Kelly File” mold, Kelly guest hosts Sandra Smith or Shannon Bream could step in without difficulty, as could Harris Faulkner, who’s hosted the hard-news “Fox Report” on Sundays for several years and who co-hosts “Outnumbered” with Smith every day. Same goes for Jenna Lee, who occupies the same morning time slot now that Kelly once did when she co-hosted with Bill Hemmer. The problem with each of them is that it’s not clear that they enjoy mixing it up with guests as much as Kelly palpably does, a key element of her success. Even a hard-news primetime hour on cable requires the spectacle of conflict. One intriguing possibility who lacks the straight-news experience of the others but who has been willing to (politely) clash with co-hosts is Dana Perino, Guilfoyle’s partner on “The Five.” Perino, a Trump skeptic, would be an odd fit at 9 amid Fox’s “yay, Trump” bloc, though. And like I say, she doesn’t have the journalism practice that the rest of the competition does.

Exit question: Might Fox revive the “Hannity & Colmes” format at 9 p.m.? This time, instead of one conservative and one liberal, it’d probably be one Trumpist and one non-Trumpist. They could lift Perino and Eric Bolling right out of “The Five” and drop them in there. That way they’d have their bases covered, with a Hannity-esque outer-borough Trump fan in the slot to dominate the hour but also a smart and likable woman co-host to balance him and break up the sporadic high-fiving between Bolling and the guests over how awesome Trump is.

Update: Well, we have an answer to the question raised in point one above. Kelly’s last show at Fox will be this Friday, January 7th. She’ll be gone before the Trump administration begins.

Update: An interesting tweet from Dana Loesch’s husband, considering the timing:

Loesch has both TV and radio broadcasting experience and is a regular guest on Kelly’s show — including tonight, in fact. And she certainly checks the box for being willing to mix it up with guests. Hmmmm.

Update: Murdoch bids Kelly farewell:

“We thank Megyn Kelly for her 12 years of contributions to FOX News. We hope she enjoys tremendous success in her career and wish her and her family all the best.”

Rupert Murdoch

Executive Chairman

21st Century Fox