Full Trumpism: Fox News reportedly set to sign Laura Ingraham for the 10 p.m. slot

Tucker at 8, Hannity at 9, and Ingraham at 10 is possibly the Trumpiest conceivable line-up you could assemble among major media figures on the right. Hannity is an informal advisor to POTUS, after all, while Ingraham was a short-lister for press secretary. The only person missing is Lou Dobbs, who’s now likely to be FNC’s go-to guy as a replacement in case Hannity decides to walk for whatever reason. Carlson/Dobbs/Ingraham would be three solid hours of nationalism in primetime from the “conservative” cable news network.

Why would Hannity walk, though? He’s Fox’s biggest star now and he’s moving (back) to a better time slot to do battle with Rachel Maddow.

While there may be one or two final details to negotiate, Ingraham has been telling friends that the deal is essentially done, the sources said.

Her new show will be part of a broader change to the network’s top-rated prime time lineup. Sean Hannity’s show, currently at 10 p.m., will move one hour earlier to 9 p.m., multiple sources confirmed.

And “The Five,” a talk show originally named for its 5 p.m. time slot, will shift from 9 p.m. back to its namesake hour.

The changes come on the heels of Eric Bolling’s exit from Fox and the cancellation of his 5 p.m. show “Fox News Specialists” last Friday.

To some extent I think Ingraham’s hiring is a defensive move by Fox. Remember, rumors have swirled for awhile that there’s a new right-wing cable news network in the offing, possibly involving Steve Bannon, possibly involving Bill O’Reilly. Since the GOP electorate is now mostly a Trump cult of personality, the obvious move for the upstart network is to pander to Trump fans with nationalist programming and a line-up of cheerleaders for POTUS as hosts. (O’Reilly allegedly tried to recruit Hannity in the past few months.) The quickest way for Fox to lose audience share would be if the newbie outfit successfully branded it as establishment and out of touch with populist concerns. Carlson/Hannity/Ingraham is Fox’s response. They’re going to give their Trump fans as much populist-nationalism as they can handle in the evening, leaving no niche for the new network to exploit. If the newbies want to try to distinguish themselves from Fox by branding themselves as (giggle) conservative instead, let them have at it. See how much of a market there is for that these days.

What’s amazing about the new Fox line-up is how dramatically different it might have been if not for a couple of decisions over the past year. One, obviously, was Fox’s decision to part ways with Eric Bolling. Without Bolling anchoring “The Specialists” at 5 p.m., FNC didn’t want to continue the show. With the 5 p.m. slot open, the logical move was to return “The Five” to that time slot, where it was wildly successful, and find a more traditional anchor for the vacant primetime hour. Ingraham’s a natural choice as a loud-and-proud Trumper and someone with years of guest-host experience. The other big one was Megyn Kelly decamping for NBC. What would have happened to Fox primetime after O’Reilly was ousted with Kelly signed long-term? Would we have ended up with a Carlson/Kelly/Hannity line-up? If so, that would have still been pretty Trumpy but Kelly would have injected some discordant skepticism of the White House in the middle. Or would we have ended up with Kelly at 8, Hannity at 9, and maybe someone less Trumpy at 10? I’ve read that Rupert Murdoch’s sons would prefer to remake Fox as more of a Sky-News-style right-leaning network with a heavier emphasis on news. Having Kelly at 8 and another news-oriented person in primetime might have done that. Once she left, though, they had to choose between shifting to news without any star anchor to sell the idea and playing it safe by going all-in on pro-Trump opinion. They went all-in.

Update: Good question from Tim Miller. Why would someone who could be White House press secretary prefer a show on Fox News?

Update: I fixed the headline to clarify that Fox is reportedly *set* to sign Ingraham but hasn’t put ink to paper yet. If CNN’s report is accurate, though, it sounds like it’s a matter of crossing Ts and dotting Is.

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