Opinion -- It is with a heavy heart that I report that Fox News - the revered channel that forever changed the face of mainstream media, became a ratings giant, and served as a bastion for the free expression of conservative thought that would otherwise be shunned by all other major channels - is dying. It lived a good, 21-year lifespan from 1996 to 2017.
This is especially painful for me, having grown up watching Fox first and foremost for coverage of major events, from 9/11 to the death of former President Reagan. Fox obviously had a similar appeal to millions of other Americans, as evident by its constant domination in the ratings, dwarfing all other channels over the second half of the 2000’s and the first half of the 2010’s.
But alas, in this current era of sheer unpredictability, where giants fall and unlikely heroes arise, it is clear that the country’s #1 cable news channel just might become another casualty in the war on the political status quo. This has been building up and becoming more and more evident over the last couple years.
Red Eye: The first major mistake for Fox News is one that most people likely won’t think of: The decision to give Greg Gutfeld his own show and move him away from the late-night show Red Eye in 2015. Now, this is absolutely not a condemnation of Greg Gutfeld himself; I very much admire Gutfeld and think he is easily worthy of a show bearing his name, considering his unique and consistently entertaining style and sense of humor. However, the decision to remove him from Red Eye - which he had been the star and host of since it first premiered in 2007 - all but eliminated the unique charm and humor that made Red Eye so special. At the same time, it diminished Gutfeld’s presence by reducing his previously daily (or rather, nightly) appearances through Red Eye to just weekly appearances via his own show, airing only on Sunday nights.
Red Eye was especially prominent as virtually the only late night satirical news show with a conservative bent, which was necessary to balance out all the other dominant left-wing satirical late night shows such as The Daily Show, the Colbert Report, and Last Week Tonight. With Gutfeld’s star removed, the show was doomed for decline despite Tom Shillue’s best efforts to save it, and it was cancelled just two years later due to poor ratings.
Megyn Kelly: This is one that will easily be remembered as one of the biggest fiascos in Fox News’ history. Although Megyn Kelly had great promise as one of Fox’s rising stars, she soon became one of the faces of the conservative anti-Trump movement, with her infamous opening question in the first Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015. Although Trump’s iconic response to that loaded question only solidified his frontrunner status, it was still abundantly clear that Megyn Kelly had every intention of touting the left-wing talking point of Trump’s “sexism,” and clearly never got over his handling of this issue.
The conflict soon escalated between the two of them, with Trump turning Kelly into his latest target on the campaign trail. Although the usual doomsday predictions said that his attacks on her would end his campaign, they of course never did. In fact, Trump dominated the conflict the whole way through, and even inadvertently turned it into a war on Fox News itself. When Kelly was announced as one of the moderators for the second Fox News-hosted debate on January 28, 2016, Trump refused to participate, and instead held his own event raising money for a veterans’ charity. He also effortlessly killed the attempted third and final Fox debate on March 21 - where, surprise, Kelly was supposed to moderate that one as well. By choosing not to participate, John Kasich also chose to bow out, thus leaving only Ted Cruz - thus, the debate was cancelled. Trump went three-for-three against the #1 cable news channel, and Megyn Kelly was to blame.
By the time she finally left Fox News in early January of 2017, her show had already lost its popularity. Although she was thought to have found some support from the left (hence her hiring by NBC), she had undoubtedly cost Fox many of its viewers, who had been boycotting the network out of protest of her conflict with Trump.
Greta Van Susteren: Although I personally was never a fan of Greta Van Susteren, I can look back now on her role and acknowledge the significance it played on the channel as well. While Megyn Kelly was rising and widely viewed as the network’s big female star, it was Greta who was truly the epitome of the fair, balanced, and moderate talking head done right. Whereas Kelly became consumed by her own bias and lost that level of balance that made Fox News great, Greta - despite arguably being more left-leaning than Kelly - rarely let that show. She always provided a fairer look at things, while also maintaining professionalism (again, more than can be said for Kelly). Her departure came in the summer and fall of 2016, in the midst of the sexual harassment allegations that saw the departures of Gretchen Carlson and Andrea Tantaros. Although Greta’s quiet departure as the bullets flew overhead was for a completely unrelated reason, her departure at the same time as this drama only compounded Fox News’ problems, and hers was truly the biggest loss for the network in that tumultuous season.
Now, most of these were obviously problems that ultimately blew over by the time the election was over and done with. Greta, despite her impartiality and professionalism, wasn’t necessarily a ratings magnet. Gutfeld is still doing just fine with his own show, even if it isn’t the uniquely right-wing late night show it once was. And Kelly was by far the network’s biggest blunder, although her influence was all but destroyed once Trump was elected and his supporters - her detractors - were vindicated; her eventual departure was all but guaranteed by that point.
However, little did we know that the worst was yet to come for the beloved cable news channel.
To be continued…
You can follow the author on Twitter: @EricLendrum26.
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