Jesse Watters To Fill Tucker Carlson’s Fox Timeslot – Rolling Stone

jesse watters gutfeld new fox lineup

After a little more than two months of auditioning potential replacements for Tucker Carlson, Fox News has decided to simply reshuffle the deck. In the face of a network crisis, Fox is sticking with a game plan that had been in the works years before it decided to part ways with its main star — stacking its channel with a slew of Tuckeresque anchors and hoping for the best. 

The network announced on Monday that it would not be bringing in any new talent to its primetime lineup, instead its current anchors will play a game of musical chairs. Unsurprisingly, sentient frat paddle Jesse Watters has been tapped to fill Carlson’s former 8 p.m. ET slot. Network veteran Laura Ingraham will take over the 7 p.m. hour, and comedy black-hole Gutfeld! will be moved to 10 p.m. No changes for Sean Hannity, he apparently doesn’t deal well with transitions of power. 

Carlson was dismissed on the heels of Fox’s massive settlement agreement with Dominion Voting Systems in April, and the decision to part ways with television’s most prominent distributor of white supremacist rhetoric was met with outrage by the right. The network is in the midst of one of the most drastic rating slumps in its history. Carlson was both a viewership driver for Fox, and a functional assignment editor for right-wing media at large. Competitors, both in and out of television, smell blood in the water. Earlier this month, Fox’s parent company Fox Corp. was accused by The Dailly Wire of having committed a capital conservative offense — being too inclusive of LGBTQ people.

But If one sets back the clock, however, it’s clear the network has been preparing its talent for the absence of Carlson for some time. 

Watters, Carlson’s replacement, cut his teeth at the network as a correspondent for Carlson’s own predecessor — Bill O’Reilly. Under O’Reilly, Watters participated in some of Fox’s most infamous segments, including a man-on-the-street interview where he would harass Asians and homeless people in New York City. 

Watters was elevated to primetime in 2022, at a time when it was obvious that many anchors at the network were doing their damndest to emulate Carlson’s reactionary style of commentary. In an effort to capitalize on the viewership bonanza, the network significantly reshaped its lineup and branding to focus its high viewership hours around Carlson-style programming. The slogan “Standing Up For What’s Right” was introduced in 2020. “Hard news” anchors such as Martha MacCallum and Shannon Bream were pushed out in order to make room for Watters and Greg Gutfeld. The mythical division touted by Fox’s executives between its “news” and “entertainment” sides was further solidified. 

Jesse Watters Primetime became the warm-up act to Tucker Carlson Tonight, and the host leaned hard into the racist, sexist, and conspiratorial style of commentary that now builds careers at Fox. On The Five, where he continues to serve as a co-host, Watters recently called homeless people “bags of flesh mutating on the sidewalk.” In July, after calling the reported rape of a 10-year-old Ohio girl a “hoax,” Watters went on to suggest the doctor who provided abortion care for the child should face criminal charges. Watters has repeatedly echoed Carlson’s own claims about the “great replacement” conspiracy theory on-air, and in May suggested that he could identify undocumented people just by looking at them.

Notable in Fox’s primetime shakeup is the elevation of Gutfeld to an earlier hour. Gutfeld, a D-list comedian who uses crass stylistics as a thin veil for racism and misogyny, has struggled to find mainstream appeal through the network since his arrival in 2007. 

In what was likely one of the most uncomfortable on-air moments in recent Fox News memory, Gutfeld recently defended a 38-year-old teacher who’d been arrested after having sex with one of her 16-year-old students. “Come on! 16 years old — I would have died for that!” Gutfeld said. 

“I am vehemently against banging kids,” replied Katherine Timpf, his Gutfeld! co-host. 

Last year, a 58-year-old Gutfeld told his The Five co-hosts that “college doesn’t look like it’s fun anymore,” because (in his view) students these days are “deliberately like ugly-fying themselves.” In April, Gutfeld claimed drug dealing was often ”the first rung onto the ladder of capitalism” for “Blacks.” 

Fundamentally, despite there being a Carlson-shaped hole at Fox News, the network has clearly chosen his successors.

The network has long abandoned the notion of journalistic objectivity with a conservative viewpoint, and gone all-in on the reactionary commentary craved by its viewership. 


One might think a  $787.5 million settlement and the loss of its star would be enough to shake Fox into action, yet the network seems to have squandered an opportunity to hit the reset button. Comparatively milder hopefuls such as Brian Kilmeade, Kayleigh McEnany, Harris Faulkner, Will Cain, and Lawrence Jones — who all auditioned for the role — have been deemed to lack the overzealous chutzpah needed to be a Carlson replacement. 

Carlson’s legacy at Fox News will live on in personalities like Watters and Gutfeld, but it may not be enough to mollify the ire of viewers who feel that there’s really no one in the world who could ever replace their favorite. 

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