Watters will continue to serve as a co-anchor of “The Five,” the early-evening program that has recently enjoyed a viewership surge. But he will give up his weekend program, “Watters’ World.” The new 7 p.m. program, “Jesse Watters Primetime,” will launch January 24.
“Jesse’s versatility and hosting acumen has grown exponentially over the last five years, and he has developed a deep connection to the audience through two hit shows ‘The Five’ and ‘Watters’ World,'” said Suzanne Scott, CEO of Fox News Media. “We look forward to watching him expand his connection even further through this new solo weeknight hour.”
Watters takes over an hour that had previously been lead by Martha MacCallum and identified as news programming. In the wake of the 2020 election, however, Fox News made programming changes that gave opinion shows more prominence in evening hours. In recent months, hosts ranging from Trey Gowdy to Maria Bartiromo have tested their presence in the hour, while Fox filled its 11 p.m. slot with a late-night-styled program from Greg Gutfeld, a co-host of Watters on “The Five.”
Fox News is giving a new spotlight to Watters, who has been part of its staff since 2002, when he worked as a production assistant. He first gained traction on “The O’Reilly Factor,” where he conducted man-on-the-street interviews on topics ranging from politics to pop culture, acting as a sort of city-side provocateur. In January of 2017, Watters was given his own program, on Saturday night’s primetime lineup. A few months later he joined “The Five.”
Like other hosts on Fox News, Watters has not been shy about expressing his thoughts on political matters. He came under scrutiny last month after saying during a speech at a political conference that young conservatives should “ambush” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the prominent government infectious-disease specialist, with questions about how the Biden administration is handling the coronavirus pandemic, and “go in for the kill shot.” In later remarks, Fauci said Watters’ comments represented “a reflection of the craziness that goes on in society” and called for Fox News to fire the host. At the time, Fox News said Watters’ words “have been twisted completely out of context.”
While he often takes aim at liberals’ political stances, Watters told Variety he valued having presenting a leftward view on “The Five,” which has been without a permanent liberal voice since Juan Williams departed last year. “You want someone, maybe with a different perspective, to have ideas that are provocative to you, and you can counter those ideas. You can have a debate and discussion. It makes you a better host,” Watters said, adding: “I would say that I enjoy having a liberal voice on the show and I expect it to continue.” Fox News has yet to name a permanent host to espouse a left-leaning view.
All three hosts of “The Five” now have additional daily duties. Gutfeld’s 11 p.m. program has been a ratings success for Fox, while Dana Perino also co-anchors “America’s Newsroom” in mid-morning with Bill Hemmer.