Amid a sexual-harassment scandal and rumors of its potential pending cancellation, one show on Fox News has drawn attention for its sharp criticism of President Donald Trump's handling of violence at the white-supremacist protest last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Fox News is considering shaking up its primetime lineup for the third time this year following the suspension of "Fox News Specialists" cohost Eric Bolling, who is on mandatory leave pending an investigation into allegations that he sent lewd unsolicited text messages to several employees.
With Bolling at the helm of "Specialists," many media observers speculated that Fox was adding another pro-Trump platform to the network. The Washington Post said the move was "a win for the White House," considering Bolling's strong support for Trump. (Bolling was briefly considered for a position in the president's cabinet and was among his most unwavering supporters during the 2016 campaign.)
Seated at the center of the frame every day, Bolling often got the last word in debates, making Trump's case, and helped book pro-Trump guests.
But in Bolling's absence this week, the remaining hosts of "Fox News Specialists" have gone viral and made headlines for their criticism of Trump's response to the Charlottesville protest.
On Monday, host Eboni Williams blasted Trump for hesitating to denounce white supremacists explicitly, saying he was "all too happy" to benefit from and "tacitly encourage" white-supremacist views.
"Mr. President, your initial response was cowardly and dangerous, and they warranted a second statement," Williams said.
She added: "I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. I can no longer do that, Mr. President. No more benefit — all doubt. In a moment where you could've been crystal clear where you stand on the issue of inclusion, standing up against white supremacy and terrorism, you very clearly chose to be ambiguous and to equivocate. All sides, Mr. President? Please."
Williams' monologue quickly went viral, getting space on the home page of the right-wing news aggregator the Drudge Report.
Host Kat Timpf, a libertarian and stand-up comic, has regularly pushed back against some pro-Trump guests over the president's factual inaccuracies as well as over some of his calls for foreign intervention.
But Timpf offered one of her bluntest condemnations following Trump's press conference on Tuesday, when he doubled down in placing blame on "both sides" for the violence in Charlottesville over the weekend. She called it ironic for Trump to urge restraint in this instance even as he had rushed to judgment in instances that appeared to be acts of Islamic terrorism.
"It's honestly crazy for me to have to comment right now because I'm still in the phase where I'm wondering if it was actually real life what I just watched," Timpf said. "It was one of the biggest messes that I've ever seen. I can't believe it happened."
She added: "It shouldn't be some kind of bold statement to say, 'Yes, a gathering full of white-supremacist Nazis doesn't have good people in it. Those are all bad people, period.' And the fact that that's controversial makes me — I don't know if I should just laugh — I have too much eye makeup on to start crying right now. It's disgusting."
Timpf and Williams' panel on Tuesday was virtually alone on Fox News in panning Trump's presser.
By primetime, many of the president's backers like Jesse Watters, Sean Hannity, and Tucker Carlson blamed journalists and reporters who questioned whether the president was drawing equivalency between white supremacists and counterprotesters.
"It was an epic beatdown of the liberal mainstream establishment media," Hannity said in the first minute of his show.
Since "Specialists" first aired earlier this year, both Timpf and Williams insisted that the show would not be a rubber stamp for Trump's agenda, and they often debated Bolling over Trump's decisions on immigration and foreign policy.
"This is not a show to be an advocacy for the administration, but this is not a show to bash our president," Williams said in an interview with Business Insider in April. "This is a show to go layer by layer, issue by issue, and have an actual dialogue."
It's unclear whether "Specialists" in its current form will continue to capture audience's attention for its status as a show willing to call out the president.
CNN's Brian Stelter reported this week that conservative pundit Laura Ingraham was in serious discussions t0 join Fox News' primetime lineup, a move that would most likely directly affect "Specialists."
Two sources familiar with the situation told Business Insider the final lineup was up in the air, but many suspected "The Five" would move back to its old 5 p.m. slot, bumping "Fox News Specialists" and making way for Ingraham to occupy the 9 p.m. slot, where "The Five" moved earlier this year. Ingraham's show could also air at 10 p.m., moving host Sean Hannity into the 9 p.m. slot.
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