After white nationalist prime-time host Tucker Carlson was fired from Fox News on April 24, Media Matters found that the network’s 8:00 p.m. hour experienced a 49% drop in average viewership. With Fox News experiencing its first full month as a Carlson-less network, and as a number of rotating guest hosts for the 8:00 p.m. hour flounder, Fox’s ratings have continued to nose dive.
In an updated analysis of the network’s ratings (data courtesy of Ad Week and Mediaite), Media Matters found that total viewership for Fox’s 8:00 p.m. hour dropped by 55% during the month of May (1.5 million average viewers) compared to Carlson’s 2022 average (3.3 million). The 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. hours have also continued to experience the fallout from Carlson’s departure, with their May 2023 ratings respectively dropping 37% and 35% from their average 2022 nightly viewership. (The 9 p.m. hour averaged 1.8 million in May 2023 and 2.8 million for 2022, while the 10 p.m. averaged 1.5 million in May 2023 and 2.3 million for 2022.)
With Carlson out, Fox News has been auditioning a gaggle of rotating personalities to host the 8:00 p.m. hour, including contributor Lawrence Jones, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade, former Trump White House press secretary and current co-host of Fox’s Outnumbered Kayleigh McEnany, former Republican congressman and current Fox contributor Trey Gowdy, contributor Johnny Joey Jones, and anchor Harris Faulkner.
While attempting to figure out its plans for the 8:00 p.m. hour, Fox executives were also forced to manage the backlash the network received after Media Matters released a number of leaked videos of Carlson (which ranged from creepy comments about women to his true feelings about Fox). Even while big names such as GOP presidential candidate Gov. Ron DeSantis still appear on Fox at 8:00 p.m., until it finds its next star right-wing extremist, it seems like the network is forced to contend with an enduring drop in ratings.
From blunders to blatant lies, here are some of the lowlights from the Fox personalities vying for the network’s coveted 8:00 p.m. hour:
- Brian Kilmeade invited the Washington Times’ Charlie Hurt to rant about Hunter Biden and his laptop, supporting his argument with right-wing media’s favorite source du jour: the Twitter Files. [Fox News, Fox News Tonight, 4/24/23]
- While the U.S. has experienced hundreds of mass shootings just this year, Kilmeade used the 8:00 p.m. hour to admonish Gov. Jay Inslee for banning AR-15s and to defend the personal use of semiautomatic weapons. [Fox News, Fox News Tonight, 4/27/23]
- Lawrence Jones, as journalist Aaron Rupar wrote, proved to be “not great” at replacing Carlson. On his first night as guest host, Jones appeared to animatedly ask former Arkansas governor and current GOP presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson about seemingly being “opposed to all of the things that the modern day Republican party stands for.” Hutchinson, after being interrupted by Jones multiple times, scolded Jones, saying “No, no, no, no. Lawrence, Lawrence, you’ve got to listen to me as well.” [Fox News, Fox News Tonight, 5/1/23]
- During the same episode, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler criticized Fox News for fearmongering that Portland is a crime-ridden city. Lawrence Jones then went on to interrupt Wheeler, double down on using anecdotal evidence (not crime statistics) to claim Portland is unsafe, and then swiftly cut away from the interview without giving Wheeler an opportunity to respond. [Fox News, Fox News Tonight, 5/1/23]
- Later in the week, Lawrence Jones inaccurately reported on crime statistics, but was met by live fact-checking from academic Jason Nichols: “We have to make sure that we're not out here fearmongering. ... You are far safer in New York state than you are in Oklahoma.” [Fox News, Fox News Tonight, 5/4/23]
- Ignoring apparent connections to Nazi ideology, Kayleigh McEnany instead blamed the Allen, Texas, mass shooting — where eight were killed — on mental health, claiming that the shooter is the “latest in a string of high-profile criminals plagued by mental health problems.” [Fox News, Fox News Tonight, 5/8/23]
- Instead of acknowledging that Republicans have increasingly aligned themselves with white nationalists, Will Cain blamed President Joe Biden for the division in America, claiming Biden will “fill us with hate for his own gain.” He then asked GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley, “Why do politicians insist on dividing us and seemingly pushing us toward a race war?” [Fox News, Fox News Tonight, 5/16/23]
- Cain complained about the word “Karen,” claiming that it is “a new racial slur for white women.” [Fox News, Fox News Tonight, 5/19/23]
- Concerned about the “birth rate crisis,” Cain called people who don’t want kids “selfish” because they are “focusing on their own individual needs and desires as opposed to those of perhaps a family.” [Fox News, Fox News Tonight, 5/19/23]
- Johnny “Joey” Jones dedicated a segment to spreading misinformation about gender affirming care and fearmongering that “child mutilation and chemical castration are now being pushed as mainstream procedures for minors, children.” He continued, “Proponents call this gender affirming care.” [Fox News, Fox News Tonight, 5/31/2023]
- According to Johnny Jones, America’s school shooting epidemic exists because, “America has daddy issues.” He went on to describe the shooters as, “Almost exclusively young men with a complete disregard for instant life. Who is supposed to teach them right from wrong? How did they go so wrong?” [Fox News, Fox News Tonight, 6/1/23]
- Johnny Jones said that it is an “abomination” for trans people to have kids. [Fox News, Fox News Tonight, 6/2/2023]
- Despite emphatically maintaining that she is a “straight news reporter,” Harris Faulkner spent her first monologue as guest host to mock trans people: “The lord has determined I am a woman. And my pronouns are U.S.A. Our nation's soul is at stake.” [Fox News, Fox News Tonight, 6/5/23]
- Complaining about “some dangerously bad decisions” (which in her opinion includes closing schools in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic), Faulkner incorrectly claimed that “we didn’t actually close schools in 1918, during the Spanish Flu pandemic.” She then continued: “We did sacrifice. We suffered, but then we pressed on.” [Fox News, Fox News Tonight, 6/6/23]