Megyn Kelly announced her departure from Fox News on Monday night, and since then, there’s been a lot of talk about what she’ll do once she joins what she called on Monday’s Kelly File, “the journalists at NBC… who I greatly admire.” (Hey, how do Fox News fans feel about that ringing endorsement for the corporate home of Rachel Maddow and Matt Lauer — a place Fox spends so much time deriding?) But there hasn’t been much speculation yet about who will replace Kelly. I’ll tell you the current speculation among media pundits, then give you two possibilities I haven’t seen anyone else advance.
Common consensus is that Fox is looking for an in-house woman to occupy Kelly’s spot in prime-time. New York Magazine’s Fox News swami, Gabriel Sherman, has listed the obvious candidates: Trish Regan, Martha McCallum, Shannon Bream and Sandra Smith. Here’s why I think none of these will fly. First, who’s to say Fox News really, really wants a woman in that time period? Other channels pay fealty to the idea of diversity; Fox does not. Fox barely shed a tear when Greta Van Susteren left, to be immediately replaced by Tucker Carlson. (And Fox may just plug Carlson into Kelly’s time-slot as a fast, easy fix.) Furthermore, none of the candidates listed above seems likely to pull in ratings comparable to what Kelly gets. The only Fox woman who might succeed is Kimberly Guilfoyle, who, from her current perch on Fox’s afternoon show, The Five, can occasionally be as cuttingly pugnacious as Kelly. Which brings me to my first possibility about what Fox could do.
My neighbor Mark, a close watcher of Fox News, posited what I think is a shrewd programming idea: Move The Five to prime time. Sure, I know: the title gimmick of that show is, five people yakking at 5 p.m. But by now, it’s such a hit, its audience just thinks of its five personalities: Greg Gutfeld, Dana Perino, Eric Bolling, Juan Williams, and Guilfoyle. The Five started out as a bookmark show, something Roger Ailes devised to throw on the air as a replacement The Glenn Beck Implosion or whatever they were calling it, until the channel came up with something better. But then the show took off in the ratings; its cacophony of voices and weird personality mix appealed to the channel’s viewers. (Although the show was better — odder, more unpredictable — when Bob Beckel was its grumpy liberal voice.) The Five would now be an excellent solution to Fox’s no-Kelly dilemma, the multiple-host format a novelty for prime-time viewers.
My second possibility is riskier, but in keeping with Fox News’s roots as a maverick operation that makes TV stars rather than poaching them from the networks: Tomi Lahren. You know, the machine-gun-mouthed alt-righter who charmed Trevor Noah and reduced Bill O’Reilly to polite silence in the space of a single week just last month. She fits the Fox bill, from the top of her blonde head to the bottom of her unhinged lower jaw.
Lahren would be coming from TheBlaze.com, and the mysterious internet gives many in the Fox audience the willies, including O’Reilly. I haven’t seen Lahren interview many people on that site, so I don’t know her skill-set in that area. Then again, I can’t watch more than 10 minutes of TheBlaze.com in one sitting without breaking out in hives. But Lahren, like early-period Megyn Kelly, is preternaturally ambitious, and I’m sure she would master the ability to keep up a conversation with Kelly stand-bys like pale gummy-bear Karl Rove. Let me be clear — I think just about every opinion Lahren holds is repulsive; I’m suggesting that she’d draw ratings for this channel.
Kelly’s last night at Fox is Friday. In the coming months, we’ll see a slew of people warming her chair, but don’t be fooled — 99 percent of them won’t really be in the running for permanent replacement. This will be the first major test for Fox News after the departure of its guru and (alleged) sexual-harasser-in-chief, Roger Ailes: To lure as many viewers as Kelly wracked up, Fox will have to do something different, and different is something I’m not sure it knows how to do anymore, without Ailes.
Megyn Kelly’s last day at Fox News will be Jan. 6.