Kimberly Guilfoyle leaving Fox News to join Trump Super PAC -- reluctantly? Update: Guilfoyle out; Update: Guilfoyle hasn't left yet, denies leaving involuntarily

It’d be understandable if she wanted out. She’s seeing Trump Jr and has been touted as a potential White House press secretary. If you had to pick any one person at Fox News who might soon make the very short trip to working for the White House officially, you’d pick her.

Today the news finally came that she’s leaving the network after 12 years, likely off to work for the pro-Trump Super PAC America First Policies alongside Don Jr. Presumably there’ll be a White House job for her sometime in Trump’s second term, if not sooner.

The question, though, is whether she’s jumping or being pushed:

Three sources tell HuffPost that longtime Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle did not leave the cable news network voluntarily…

A source close to Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle denies that she did not leave voluntarily.

Why might Guilfoyle have been pushed? Well, Politico reported a few days ago that even Fox News execs are starting to get weirded out by how chummy some of the hosts are with the White House. Hannity, Trump’s “shadow chief of staff,” is the most famous example but there’s not much the brain trust can do about that. He’s the network’s biggest name, he delivers its highest ratings. Confront him and you might suddenly have big shoes to fill at 9 p.m. Guilfoyle, however, doesn’t host her own show; she’s one of five co-hosts at 5 p.m., valuable but certainly more replaceable than a primetime anchor. Forcing out Don Jr’s girlfriend might be management’s way of signaling to everyone at FNC whose name doesn’t rhyme with “Shmannity” that there are limits to how pro-Trump even Fox should be. Politico:

Hannity’s coziness with the president, as well as that of other Fox News hosts with Trump, has at times discomfited the executives trying to steer the network in the post-Roger Ailes era. The channel is now led by CEO Suzanne Scott, and Fox News executives have at times pushed its hosts to distance themselves from the president, according to people familiar with their deliberations. On at least one occasion, executives asked a group of Fox personalities who had been invited to dine at the White House to decline the invitation, hoping to fend off the appearance that the network has inched too close to the White House.

You’re left to wonder if the surprising criticism of Trump this week on Fox News and Fox Business was wholly organic or if execs let it be known that hosts were welcome to criticize the president if they chose. Nothing’s going to penetrate the MAGA wall in primetime but various Fox commentators — Cavuto, Trish Regan, Melissa Francis, Brian Kilmeade, off the top of my head — spoke up about Helsinki. Maybe we’re headed towards (even more of) a two-track network in which daytime is lukewarm on POTUS to balance the cheerleading in the evening.

As for Guilfoyle, who’s going to fill the vacancy she’s creating on “The Five”? Here’s how Roger Ailes once described his vision of the show:

“Go around the table,” he told me, delighting in his own ingenuity. “Over on this end, we’ve got the bombshell in a skirt, drop-dead gorgeous.” He raised a chubby finger: “But smart! She’s got to be smart or it doesn’t work.” Next, he said, “we have a gruff longshoreman type, salty but not too salty for TV. In the middle there’s the handsome matinee idol. Next to him we have the Salvation Army girl, cute and innocent—but you get the idea she might be a lotta fun after a few pops. On the end, we need a wiseguy, the cut-up.”

Fox can do anything it wants with the format in the post-Ailes era, of course, but assume they’re sticking with the Ailes blueprint. Who’s in for Guilfoyle? Sandra Smith and Regan both qualify as “bombshells” and smart but each hosts or co-hosts her own show already. Sub one if them in at “The Five” and you have a new vacancy to fill elsewhere. The chatterati on Twitter are speculating that it’ll be Tomi Lahren, but Lahren typically works solo. She had her own show at the Blaze and is best known at Fox for delivering “Final Thoughts” commentary. Who knows if she’d work well in a freewheeling panel format.

If not one of them, who?

Update: It’s official.

That’s a conspicuously terse farewell to someone who’s been with the network for more than 10 years and who co-hosted a popular show. If you’re looking for evidence that her departure was less than totally friendly, there it is.

Update: Kimberly Guilfoyle’s representatives have reached out to stress that while she and Fox News did indeed agree to part ways, she wasn’t fired and isn’t leaving involuntarily. In fact, she’s still an employee as of today, more than 24 hours after HuffPost’s story was published.