Big Changes Imminent at Fox News

In the midst of the maelstrom of breaking news of the past several days, the outlines of a big story affecting the future of the Fox News Channel are beginning to emerge.  They involve a major makeover of Fox News's once-dominant prime-time schedule and a rising new star, Eboni K. Williams.  After the dust settles, Williams, whose current show, The Fox News Specialists, looks as though it's headed for oblivion after the coming shake-up, may wind up on the fast track to cable news stardom.

Drudge's May 14 tweet.

On Monday, August 14, Matt Drudge let the cat out of the bag, as he occasionally does (remember the Lewinsky scandal?), with an enigmatic tweet that congratulated veteran radio and TV talk host Laura Ingraham on her move to FNC prime time this fall.  This tantalizing tweet was followed in short order by reports in other media advancing long simmering speculation that the FNC prime-time schedule will soon be changed – for the third time this year.  Many of these reports are suggesting that the change will entail moving The Five from 9 P.M. E.T. back to 5 P.M., with Laura Ingraham moving into the 9 P.M. hour.  Last month, two high-level sources informed me that major prime-time schedule changes at the news channel would indeed be in place by early fall.

However, in an exclusive being reported here, on Tuesday, August 15, one of my reliable sources said with "1,000% certainty" that Fox News management wants Sean Hannity for the all-important 9 P.M. hour.  "That's the most likely scenario" of the changes being discussed, the source added.

While no contracts have been signed and no final decisions have been made, it appears as of this writing that the fall 2017 FNC prime-time schedule will most likely be Tucker Carlson Tonight at 8, Hannity at 9, and (possibly if not probably) a new program hosted by Laura Ingraham at 10.  In any case, it looks as if The Five will be returning to its former 5 P.M. slot.  If this information holds true, the lead story today is that Sean Hannity will soon be going head to head against MSNBC's Rachel Maddow in a battle of the cable TV news titans.

Sean Hannity.

Rachel Maddow.

Even without inside sources and leaks, a dedicated viewer of Fox News who pays attention to TV ratings might have concluded that a major change is in the air.  On April 19, Fox News's most popular host, Bill O'Reilly, was fired, and his 8 P.M. nightly program – #1 in all of cable news for the previous fifteen years – was given to Tucker Carlson.  Hannity remained at 10 P.M., but, in a scheduling move that seemed questionable, the often boisterous and hard to take ensemble talk show The Five went from 5 P.M. to 9 P.M., previously the home of Tucker Carlson before he was moved to 8 P.M.  Carlson moved into the 9 P.M. time slot last January when Megyn Kelly left FNC for NBC News.

The ratings of the Fox News Channel have not been the same since the latest schedule change in May.  Right out of the gate in prime time, The Five has under-performed at 9 P.M.  That has allowed the cerebral and focused MSNBC host Rachel Maddow – now in her ninth year at 9 P.M. – to pull ahead of Fox News and CNN at that critical hour in both total viewers and the preferred demographic or demo (viewers 25-54 years of age).  Maddow has benefited not only from Fox's weak programming at 9 P.M., but also from heightened interest in the consistent hard-left anti-Trump theme of her programs – which is drawing from the large pool of Resist Trump viewers.  On most nights now, Maddow has the #1 show on all of prime-time cable TV news.

Despite the weak lead-in that The Five provides to the 10 P.M. hour, Hannity, who has been on Fox News in prime time since the day the network went live in 1996, has maintained his ratings dominance.  More often than not, Hannity wins his time slot and has the #1 prime-time show on the Fox News Channel.

Eboni K. Williams, Esq.

Eboni K. Williams is a fairly recent hire at Fox News.  After appearing as an on-air contributor and occasional co-host, she was named one of the three co-hosts of the new daily ensemble talk show The Fox News Specialists, which premiered on May 1 in the 5-o'clock hour vacated by The Five.  Comedian Kat Timpf is one of Williams's co-hosts.  The third co-host, Eric Bolling, was suspended by Fox News on August 5 after an article citing anonymous sources, but not including any evidence or quotes, was published by the Huffington Post.  The article alleged that Bolling had texted lewd pictures to three of his female co-workers "several years ago."  Bolling denies the charges and has filed a $50-million lawsuit against the article's author.  Bolling's claims of innocence notwithstanding, within the current hyper-P.C. climate at 21st Century Fox, his future appears to be in serious doubt.

Factors complicating the smooth running of Fox News include the ascent to power in recent months of FNC co-founder Rupert Murdoch's sons James and Lachlan, both of whom are widely reported to be more liberal than their father, a lifelong conservative who is close friends with President Trump.

Since she first started appearing as a guest on Bill O'Reilly's show last year, Williams has cultivated an appealing on-air persona as a slightly left-of-center but ultimately a moderate, non-ideological, thoughtful, and open-minded analyst.  This kind of middle-of-the-road political profile is fairly unique to Fox News hosts and contributors.  Williams is also a very attractive, poised, and articulate young woman who clearly has the look and the smarts for cable news stardom.

Williams, who is 33, is extremely active in all-important Facebook and Twitter social media.  An oft-repeated part of her biography is that she was raised by a single mother – a small business owner – who, Eboni Williams has said, voted for Donald Trump for president.  Williams received a B.A. in communications and African-American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  She followed that up with a law degree from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law.  Williams worked both in private practice as a defense attorney and as a public defender.  Transitioning from lawyering, she worked as a radio talk show host in Los Angeles and as a correspondent for CBS News and a contributor to HLN. According to an interview with Williams published last December, she was invited to appear as a guest on O'Reilly's Fox News show during the trial of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin.  She then became a Fox News contributor and an occasional program host before getting her own show last May 1.  Since early June, Williams has also been co-hosting a three-hour daily talk show on WABC AM 770 in New York City.

With Bolling absent from The Specialists for the past seven episodes, Williams has assumed the most prominent role on the five-person show, which now has a rotating guest in place of suspended co-host Bolling.  After the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday, August 13, Williams was quick to make her move to be noticed during the very next outing of The Specialists.

Eboni Williams Steps Out as a Serious Trump Critic

Eboni Williams, The Fox News Specialists, August 14, 2017.

On Monday, August 14, Williams let President Trump have it:

I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. I can no longer do that, Mr. President.  No more benefit – all doubt.

During her monologue, in a segment she calls "The Docket," Williams doubled down:

President Trump, I do not know your heart, but what I do know for sure is that you've clearly done the math. You've decided that the portion of your base that is absolutely racist is so significant, so valuable that you hesitate – even in the face of blatant, flagrant hatred – to risk turning them off and thereby crippling your political stronghold[.] ...

You remember when you said your base would stick with you even if you shot someone on Fifth Avenue? I think you are right. I think they will stick with you through anything[.] ... They will even stick with you while you calm their fears and deep-seated anger around their perceived depreciation of the intrinsic value of whiteness in this country. Let's be honest: That's what this is all really about.

Befitting her new status as an up and coming prominent cable news celebrity, Williams's comments directed at Trump were the occasion for feature articles in both the MSM and independent media.

Eboni Williams made her entrance into the Fox News universe during the last year of the original conservative regime of FNC, when it was under the day-to-day, hour-by-hour direction of co-founder and CEO Roger Ailes with the support of Rupert Murdoch.  Ailes was ousted one year ago, and the political direction of Fox News since then has slowly tilted to the left, with a few notable exceptions including Hannity.

As an attorney, Williams's moderate and professional demeanor was an ideal fit during her introduction to the Fox News audience.  Nowadays, with new executives in charge, and under the eventual if not current editorial direction of Rupert Murdoch's liberal sons, Williams's more direct and out front criticisms and challenges directed at the Trump administration may be a better fit.

Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran journalist who writes about national politics, media, popular culture, and health care.  He is a frequent contributor to American Thinker.  His latest website is

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