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Fox News Fills Out ‘The Five’ With Jeanine Pirro, Trio of Liberals

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Courtesy of Fox News Channel

Fox News Channel said it would count on a larger group of anchors to boost one of its top shows, “The Five,” as it enjoys a new levels of viewership.

Jeanine Pirro, the firebrand former prosecutor who has held forth on Fox News’ Saturday-night schedule for a decade, will fill one of two empty seats at the network’s late-afternoon mainstay, with a trio —  Harold Ford Jr., Geraldo Rivera and Jessica Tarlov — rotating as the program’s voice from the left. Those three have been filling in since the resident liberal of “The Five,” Juan Williams, parted ways with the show last May. Greg Gutfeld, Dana Perino and Jesse Watters have carried on the interim. Pirro will give up the regular Saturday-night show she has hosted for a decade.

“The Five” has in recent months done something unusual. More than a decade into its tenure on the Fox Corp.-backed outlet, it has seen a surge in audience — an atypical trend for a program that doesn’t air in primetime. In the fourth quarter of 2021, the program won more viewers overall across all cable-news offerings.

As such, tinkering with it is not something to be done lightly. “The Five” has served as a template for a range of programs across the Fox News’ schedule, including the new late-night round-table program “Gutfeld,” the daytime staple “Outnumbered,” and two weekend programs, “The Big Saturday Show” and “The Big Sunday Show.”  In executives’ view, “The Five” serves as sort of family-dinner table where people can argue over topics without walking away angry.  “It’s a great show for us, and it’s a great show for America, actually,” Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott told Variety in a 2019 interview. She was involved in the show’s creation and choosing its original lineup, which has featured Gutfeld and Perino since its debut.

Whether the addition of Pirro, a dyed-in-the-wool supporter of former President Trump who has been prone to dramatic commentary on her own program, tilts that balance remains to be seen.

Pirro’s move to the weekday show is emblematic of Fox News’ current strategy of placing decidedly right-leaning opinion host in many of its top slots. On Monday, Fox News put Watters in its 7 p.m. hour, ensuring the network’s schedule between 7 p.m. and midnight is stocked with pundits who espouse conservative — sometimes even more rightward — viewpoints.

Pirro is nothing if not colorful. Before joining Fox News, she was the host of a syndicated court program from Warner Brothers that relied on her three terms as Westchester County District Attorney. In 2019, Pirro did not appear on her show for a handful of weeks after making pointed remarks about U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar, a Muslim lawmaker, suggesting she was more tied to Muslim law than the U.S. Constitution. Even so, she has a long track record in Republican circles in New York, elected elected as the first woman to serve as a Westchester County Court judge, and appointed by then-Governor George Pataki to chair the New York State Commission on Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board in 1997.

Although Fox News tilts decidedly right, the network’s executives have long maintained “The Five” will not work without a liberal counterpoint. Fox has had a right-and-left format on its air since 1996, when Sean Hannity used to spar in primetime with liberal foil, Alan B. Colmes. “The Five” has kept the concept on air.

Harold Ford, Jr. a former Democratic U.S. Representative from Tennessee, will be one of those offering a leftward viewpoint. Ford, a one-time regular at NBC News and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” is an executive vice chairman of PNC Bank’s corporate and institutional banking business. Jessica Tarlov, a Fox News contributor since 2017, is vice president of research and consumer insight for Bustle Digital Group and a former Democratic pollster who will also appear regularly on the show. Geraldo Rivera, a longtime Fox News presence and correspondent-at-large, has politics that are less easy to pin down, but will also fill the show’s roster of leftward points of view.