Greta Van Susteren says she just couldn’t stay away from the immediacy of cable news.
For the past few years, Van Susteren, one of the few anchors who can say they have been employed by CNN, MSNBC and Fox News Channel, has been working as a political analyst for Gray Television and doing a show for Voice of America. Now, she’s about to get back on the grid as an anchor leading the 6 p.m. hour for conservative news outlet Newsmax.
“Gray has been really fun, but here’s the big difference — there really is nothing like live news,” Van Susteren tells Variety. Gray let her out of her contract so she could take the new job, she says.
Mediaite previously reported that Van Susteren was in talks with Newsmax. She hosted a Newsmax debate earlier this month between candidates from Pennsylvania for the U.S. Senate.
Van Susteren is the latest in a line of personalities to join Newsmax who previously cultivated an audience at Fox News. Eric Bolling, a one-time Fox News host, is also at Newsmax, as is James Rosen, a former Fox News chief Washington correspondent. Van Susteren’s new program, “The Record with Greta Van Susteren” (Her Fox News program was called “On The Record” and her MSNBC show was titled “For The Record”), will debut at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 14. Newsmax will move Sean Spicer to a new time slot and may make other schedule tweaks to accommodate, according to a network spokesperson.
Van Susteren says she’s not interested in being on during primetime. “That’s opinion time,” she quips, noting that with her legal background, she’s eager to stick to facts. “I’ve been able to get Republicans and Democrats on my show, regardless of my network. I like leaving the opinions to the opinion people. This is a better hour for me.”
Some Newsmax on-air product has been challenged. The company is grappling with defamation lawsuits from voting-technology companies Smartmatic and Dominion Voting Systems, both of which charge Newsmax spread false claims on air about the companies’ role in the 2020 election, which has been affirmed as a victory for President Joe Biden. The companies have also sued Fox News and OAN. “Neither Newsmax nor its hosts embraced theories about the voting software, as other network hosts did,” Newsmax said in a statement. “We believe the neutral reporting privilege applies and we will prevail.”
Van Susteren says she can’t name a network she’s worked for that hasn’t had its share of controversy. “I don’t think Newsmax has a monopoly on that,” she adds.
Newsmax continues to hire anchors who are likely known to its viewers as it competes with businesses that are substantially bigger. Newsmax is seen generating $41.4 million in 2022. according to Kagan, a media research unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence, compared with nearly $1.17 billion for Fox News, $757.4 million for MSNBC and $699.5 million for CNN. Chris Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax, takes issue with the Kagan figures. “Last year we did a multiple in revenues of that Kagan number, and we’re seeing even stronger growth this year,” he says.
Van Susteren intends to devote her new hour to stories that cater to her strengths in legal analysis and foreign travel, but knows she needs to get a middle-American audience to pay attention. “Why should anyone in Appleton, Wisconsin, care?” she asks, referring to her hometown.
Van Susteren has been delving into hot topics since the days of the O.J. Simpson trial. Her work as a legal analyst for CNN on that very event led to her hosting two different programs there. In 2002, she moved to Fox News Channel, where she anchored a primetime program and then one at 7 p.m. Her arrival at MSNBC in 2017 was touted by Rachel Maddow, but executives felt her early-evening program trailed its rivals on other news outlets.
What does she think of how cable news has changed since she left? She sees significantly more opinion programming and thinks the recent pandemic has kept anchors hunkered down in their studios rather than getting out and seeing life around the nation. “It makes a difference,” she says, when an anchor can see a debate or issue up close and on the ground. “I’m curious and I love the stories. I’m fascinated by it and I think that sells to viewers.”
She struck what she believes is an unusual deal with Newsmax. She gets to decide what should be on her show. “I’m 100% independent. If you don’t like the show, don’t you call Chris Ruddy,” she says. “You call me. I’ll take total blame.”