The shifts in editorial focus and audience attention at Fox News may signal a shift in the direction of the far-right movement in America, according to a new analysis.
Daily Beast correspondent Justin Baragona examined the situation at Fox News under the headline, “How ‘Loyal Dog’ Sean Hannity Went From King of Fox News to Has-Been.”
“During the Trump administration, Sean Hannity was on top of the world. With the ouster of his longtime Fox News colleague and nemesis Bill O’Reilly in April 2017 over sexual misconduct allegations, Hannity quickly rose from second fiddle to the most-watched host in cable news. And he stayed there for years,” Baragona wrote. “But towards the end of Trump’s term, Tucker Carlson—who essentially replaced O’Reilly in primetime—supplanted Hannity as the top dog at Fox News. Conservative cable viewers seemed far more interested in Carlson’s brand of taking Trumpism’s far-right nationalism, fervent anti-immigrant rhetoric, and COVID trutherism and running with it over Hannity’s increasingly stale Trump boosterism (and insatiable Hillary Clinton obsession).”
Hannity was known as the “shadow chief of staff” during the Trump administration.
“Having already risen to a solid third place in Fox News viewership by the 2020 election, the late-afternoon panel show ‘The Five’ —featuring popular Fox News veterans Greg Gutfeld and Jesse Watters—eventually passed Hannity for second place in August 2021, and hasn’t looked back since. In fact, the culture war-driven gabfest has even overtaken ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’ as the most-watched show in all of cable news. (Carlson’s show, however, regularly draws more viewers in the coveted 25-54 advertising demographic.)”
Watters was rewarded with the show “Jesse Watters Primetime” which quickly became one of the top five shows on cable news.
“Hannity’s show was able to claw its way to a third-place finish for the second quarter of the year, pulling in an average of 2.73 million total viewers to Watters’ 2.69 million, while beating Jesse Watters Primetime in the advertising demographic by nearly 50,000 viewers,” The Beast reported. “But June and July, separately, told a different story. Watters once again edged out Hannity in total viewership in June while closing the gap in the 25-54 demographic. The following month, Watters expanded his lead in overall audience by more than 100,000 viewers and came within 13,000 of Hannity in the key advertising demographic.”
Baragona also examined the shift in focus at Fox News.
“The sustained ascendancy of Carlson, Gutfeld, and Watters—more ‘own the libs’ culture warriors than card-carrying Trumpists—while Hannity, a member of Trump’s inner circle, continues to sink cannot be simply chalked up to a growing perception that the network is distancing itself from Trump’s cult of personality,” Baragona wrote. “Instead, the most likely explanation comes from Hannity’s inability to evolve with the changing right-wing media landscape—one that has long moved into darker ideological terrain after decades of loyally defending and touting the Republican Party above all else.”
For analysis, Bargona interviewed Matthew Sheffield, who was a right-wing media figure and founder of NewsBusters before growing disenchanted with the movement.
“The fundamental thing about Hannity is that he’s not an ideas guy. He’s a cheerleader,” Sheffield said. “He is not a creative person. He just wants to have the same guests on all the time talking about the same things. And for the more angry, reactionary, Christian types, that’s just not enough for them anymore. They want more anger, more ambitiousness. And they certainly don’t want to hear what Lindsey Graham has to say.”
On Friday, Tammy Bruce guest hosted “Sean Hannity Tonight.”
u201cExcited to be guest hosting for @seanhannity tonight 9p ET @FoxNews. Busy time as the Dems continue to burn down our future w taxes, war, inflation, recession, & hiring 87k new IRS agents while abandoning border patrol & local police all across the nation. See you tonight! ud83dudc4aud83cuddfaud83cuddf8u201d
— Tammy Bruce (@Tammy Bruce)