‘Not a chance’: Fox News viewers reject Tucker Carlson’s replacement

‘Not a chance’: Fox News viewers reject Tucker Carlson’s replacement

Furious viewers flee to other conservative networks as Brian Kilmeade tries to take the place of network’s ex-most popular host

Culture & Entertainment

There were a lot of questions floating around after Fox News unceremoniously dumped rightwing firebrand Tucker Carlson on Monday morning.

Among them: can the conservative news channel effectively replace its most popular host, a grievance-filled firebrand who drew in more than 3 million viewers every night?

The answer, on this week’s evidence, is no.

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Every night this week it has filled Carlson’s slot with Brian Kilmeade, an eager substitute who, in his regular role on the Fox and Friends morning show, serves as an excitable, unthreatening everyman.

Every night viewers have given an unforgiving verdict on Kilmeade’s efforts: by turning off in their droves.

It’s a shame for Kilmeade, but a clue as to how he might be received had already come early on Monday.

“Join me tonight at 8 pm!” he tweeted an hour before his show started a now Tucker-free Fox News line-up. It turned out that not only did people not want to join Kilmeade, they were furious that he was going to be on air in place of their fallen hero.

“Not a chance in hell ya sellout,” was one of the more polite online responses, while someone else noted: “I’d rather watch grass grow.”

Undeterred, Kilmeade kicked things off on Monday with the briefest of references to the man he was temporarily replacing.

“As you probably have heard, Fox News and Tucker Carlson have agreed to part ways. I wish Tucker the best, I’m great friends with Tucker and always will be,” Kilmeade said.

“But right now, it’s time for Fox News Tonight, so let’s get started!”

For some people, it was time to get started on switching channels. On Monday the audience for Kilmeade, a less angry, less charismatic, apparently less race-obsessed host, was 47% of the number Carlson had attracted a week earlier, according to the Los Angeles Times.

It isn’t just that Carlson’s departure has turned off viewers. The hastily renamed Fox News Tonight show appears to have actively driven people to Fox News’ competitors, with Newsmax in particular, seeing record ratings.

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Watching Kilmeade’s shows this week, it is clear that he is rather one-note. That note is attacking Joe Biden, which he has done enthusiastically, but with none of the vitriol of his predecessor.

“Let’s get started!” Kilmeade declared (again) on Tuesday evening.

“80-year-old Joe Biden is officially running for president again,” he said.

“Big surprise. This morning he released the single most divisive campaign ad we’ll see in a long time, I hope ever.”

When Biden ran in 2020, Kilmeade said he “campaigned on the idea that police are racist”. This was news to this observer, but never mind, because according to Kilmeade: “He’s not talking about that anymore.”

Kilmeade pointed out – accurately – that the number of police officers in Seattle had declined. Crime has not gotten significantly worse: “The violent crime rate for the city of Seattle increased from 729 per 100,000 in 2021 to 736 per 100,000 in 2022,” but drug deaths, in common with the rest of the nation, have increased.

Kilmeade said that the state of Washington is struggling to pass new drug laws, after a previous law was ruled unconstitutional by the state supreme court. As it stands drug possession will become legal in the state on 1 July.

“The result of all that is that fentanyl is flowing into Washington state big time,” Kilmeade said, ignoring the fact that he’d just told us the law was in place through the end of June, and offering no source for the big-time increase.

With Carlson, this would have been read as a deliberate misdirection. With Kilmeade, it’s not clear if he just got confused.

After some more stuff on fentanyl – inevitably the blame was laid at Biden’s door, despite the Washington law being state, not federal – Kilmeade returned to Biden’s announcement.

“Joe Biden announced today that he’s running for president, again. If he wins, he’ll be 82, when he’s done at the end of his term he’ll be 86,” Kilmeade said.

x“In his announcement video today Joe Biden was as divisive, in my view, as he possibly could be. He said if you don’t vote for him, you are not interested in protecting democracy,” Kilmeade said of Biden’s ad.

He apparently hadn’t seen Donald Trump’s ad, from earlier in April, in which the former president said he was running against “radical left lunatics”. In an ad from August 2022, three months before he announced his bid for the presidency, Trump talked ominously about “the tyrants we are fighting”.

Kilmeade invited Marianne Williamson, the health guru and sometime vaccine skeptic who ran for the Democratic nomination in 2020, to take a pop at Biden.

Instead he effectively gave Williamson four minutes of airtime to give a campaign speech, in which she touted universal healthcare and free college tuition. It’s hard to imagine Carlson doing the same.

By Wednesday, there was a distinct sense that Kilmeade and his writers were running out of ideas.

“Good evening and welcome to Fox News Tonight,” Kilmeade chirped at the top of the show.

“Glad you’re here. You know, we told you last night about Joe Biden’s big 2024 campaign announcement video.”

Kilmeade did not add: “Well giddy up, because we’re going to tell you all about it again,” but he might as well have done. He told viewers they should go on YouTube – “like I did today” – and look at the comments under Biden’s video.

The comments were not kind, Kilmeade said, and he excitedly read a few out, after announcing that “the Democrats have embraced totalitarianism”.

There followed a sort of whip-around, tick-the-boxes analysis of Biden’s presidency so far, featuring China, inflation, fentanyl, immigration and the government’s efforts to attract and retain women to engineering jobs.

“It’s social engineering, not real engineering,” Kilmeade quipped.

In sticking to his attacks on Biden, Kilmeade is on safe ground. But it isn’t going to excite a Fox News audience who Carlson has filled with a lust for blood.

The appeal of Carlson wasn’t just that he didn’t like Biden. It was that there were loads of other things that upset him too: trans people, people of color, immigrants, many women, and the idea that white people may no longer rule the US with impunity.

Perhaps Kilmeade just isn’t as angry as Carlson.

He certainly doesn’t seem it. He isn’t as good a performer either – throughout the week the extent to which he was obviously reading the autocue became distracting, and viewers may have missed Carlson’s patented angry eyes, open-mouthed look.

With Kilmeade, so far, proving unable or unwilling to plumb the same depths as Carlson, it’s hard to see him becoming a permanent replacement.

Carlson’s great skill was giving the audience a wide variety of things to hate and fear. By contrast Kilmeade, with his comparatively milquetoast focus on Biden, is stuck in first gear.

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