The Downfall of Fox News: Part II - The Finishing Blows
Eric Lendrum, Politics Contributor
Opinion -- In the previous installment last week, I discussed how the once-great Fox News Channel - the ratings giant and true shining example for how a cable news channel can be Fair & Balanced - has been collapsing before our eyes. I highlighted the key problems that arose within the last couple of years, particularly the ones that we may have missed: Greg Gutfeld’s departure from Red Eye and Red Eye’s subsequent cancellation; the rise and fall of Megyn Kelly, purely of her own character flaws; and the rather quiet departure of Greta Van Susteren in the summer of multiple female personalities departing the network.
Now, it’s on to the two major death blows to the network. While all the previously aforementioned problems could have ultimately been brushed off, these two are irreversible calamities that have doomed the channel into a ratings decline and a fall from favor among conservative audiences.
Bill O’Reilly: This is the big one. This was the death blow for Fox News. I grew up watching The O’Reilly Factor, and although I had somewhat stopped watching in recent years, I will always acknowledge the sheer significance of this cable news giant, a show as old as the channel itself. Occupying the key primetime slot of 5 PM EST, the show ultimately reigned as the #1 cable news show for 15 consecutive years, especially dominating in the key 25-54 demographic. The show also helped give rise to two other Fox News stars and their own shows: Megyn Kelly and The Kelly File, and Jesse Watters and Watters’ World - both named after the respective segments of the same names from O’Reilly’s show.
And yet, O’Reilly found himself as the latest victim of the left’s favorite character assassination tactic: Several largely unsubstantiated accusations of sexual harassment and/or assault. Although the network and O’Reilly seemed to be mitigating this mess fairly well at first, it took a turn for the worst when he was fired on April 19, 2017. And the results speak for themselves: As The Blaze reported, Fox News’ ratings plummeted across the board, both in the various primetime slots and in the crucial 25-54 demographic, obviously as a result of O’Reilly’s audience leaving with him. All of the other primetime shows - The Story with Martha MacCallum, The Five, and even Tucker Carlson’s show - fell behind other shows from rival networks such as CNN, and even MSNBC. And when you’re falling behind MSNBC ratings, you’re definitely in trouble.
O’Reilly himself said it best, in an interview with Beck following his firing: “Fox News has a problem. There’s no doubt about it. Whenever you lose a key person...you better have a plan. And it doesn’t look like FNC has a plan.” And indeed, even if they did have a plan, it’s hard to imagine a plan that could adequately make up for the 5 to 6 million views, per episode, that O’Reilly was garnering.
Sean Hannity: This is the final blow. While O’Reilly’s firing undoubtedly marked the beginning of the end, Hannity’s current dilemma would create a deadly 1-2 combo that would hasten Fox’s demise. Hannity too has been a staple of the channel since it was first founded, with his original show Hannity & Colmes (alongside the late Alan Colmes), and with his current show, simply titled Hannity. He has arguably been the network’s biggest supporter of President Trump, and as such, played a crucial role in the election by expressing this support to his also sizeable audience.
Now, in a defining moment of truth for conservative media, Hannity is coming under fire as well for an even more ridiculous reason. Even more frustrating than false sexual harassment allegations, Hannity is being criticized for covering the very crucial - if not outright suppressed - story of the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich. This has led to left-wing protests of Hannity’s show and pressuring of advertisers to drop his program, some of which have done just that. Hannity is currently on vacation from the channel, and has since confirmed that he is considering leaving Fox News. And all of this is simply because Hannity is trying to get to the bottom of a story that he - and many others - view as important, no matter how controversial. In short, he is being punished for seeking the truth; and Fox seems ready to cave on this one too, just as they did with O’Reilly. Only time will tell now what Hannity’s final decision is, but the fact that he has already come to this point tells you all you need to know about the sad state of the once-beloved network.
Conclusion: With all this said, it is abundantly clear that Fox News’ best days are long gone. Many of its original stars and primetime hosts have moved on, with only a few prominent exceptions such as Bret Baier and Shepherd Smith - and those individuals are more focused on direct news coverage rather than giving their own two cents. Although Fox has seen a couple of new stars rise to the spotlight, such as Tucker Carlson and Jesse Watters - they are clearly losing old talent faster than they are hiring new ones. Up until very recently, the few who departed as parting shots at the network itself - Carlson, Andrea Tantaros, Kelly - weren’t nearly as strong in the ratings as those whom the network is actively firing now, such as O’Reilly and Hannity.
It is all too fitting that this happens right around the same time that Fox News’ founder and CEO, the great Roger Ailes, passed away. His passing is indeed every bit as symbolic as it was tragic. The end of an era, one that died a slow, agonizing death rather than passing on gracefully.
Rest In Peace, Fox News: 1996 - 2017.
You can follow the author on Twitter: @EricLendrum26.
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