By Peter Barry Chowka
On Tuesday, November 21, at 10:17 A.M. E.S.T., the press release went out from Fox News in New York:
FOX News Channel (FNC) has signed nationally syndicated radio talk show personality Mark Levin as host of Life, Liberty & Levin, a new weekend primetime program debuting in February 2018, announced Suzanne Scott, president of programming.
The addition of Levin, an iconic figure in the 21st century conservative movement, to the Fox News regular lineup should please the channel’s core audience. Until recently, FNC’s commitment to a fair and balanced conservative viewpoint had appeared uncertain with the ignominious dumping of long-term popular “no-spin” host Bill O’Reilly last April, the firing of popular conservative host Eric Bolling in September, and the elevation to higher profile status of progressive hosts and contributors like Juan Williams, Sheppard Smith, Jessica Tarlov, and Marie Harf, among others.
One month ago, however, Fox News reinforced its M-F prime time schedule with the addition of Laura Ingraham’s show The Ingraham Angle at 10 P.M., capping what is now the strongest right of center prime time lineup in the channel’s 21 year history.
Levin’s new program is set to premiere in February in its time slot on Sundays at 10 P.M. E.S.T. He will continue to do his 3-hour daily nationally syndicated radio talk show which is rated #3 in the country, behind Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Levin, who turned 60 on September 27, also hosts a nightly online subscription-based television show LevinTVon CRTV, a channel that features programs hosted by conservatives Michelle Malkin, Deneen Borelli, and Stephen Crowder.
Levin is an attorney who served in the Reagan administration as chief of staff to Attorney General Edwin Meese. He got his start in radio two decades ago by appearing as a guest legal analyst on Rush Limbaugh’s and Sean Hannity’s radio shows. Hannity nicknamed Levin “The Great One,” and still calls him that when he appears occasionally on Hannity’s TV program. In 2002, Levin was given a radio program of his own, weekends on WABC AM 770 in New York. In 2003, he moved to the 6-9 P.M M-F slot on WABC, which at the time was Hannity’s flagship station, immediately following Hannity’s show. In 2006 The Mark Levin Show, which continues to air live at 6 P.M. E.S.T., went into national syndication.
Although Levin on the air can come across as acerbic and argumentative, he is a serious and articulate constitutional scholar and his legal and political expertise are reflected on his show. He has developed a large and dedicated audience. Levin is also the author of over half a dozen New York Times best selling non-fiction books. The most successful one, Levin’s Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, was released in 2009 and became a #1 New York Times best seller for eleven weeks. It was rated #2 on Amazon.com’s list of the bestselling books of 2009.
The Nov. 21 Fox News announcement noted:
Life, Liberty & Levin will explore the fundamental values and principles undergirding American society, culture, politics, and current events, and their relevance to the nation’s future and everyday lives of citizens. The hour-long program will feature Levin’s lively in-depth and long-form interviews and powerful debate style with consequential guests covering history, philosophy, and economics. Levin will also capitalize on his extraordinary knowledge and compelling perspective as a constitutional lawyer to discuss the American founding, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution.
In making the announcement, [FNC president of programming Suzanne] Scott said, “Mark’s passion for the principles found in the Constitution and success in talk radio has made him a distinct figure in the media landscape. We look forward to adding this spirited program to our weekend lineup.”
Levin added, “I am honored to join FOX News, a network I have enjoyed appearing on as a guest for quite some time. As a proud citizen of the United States, I am delighted to share the significance of American values with such a wide audience and look forward to engaging with important guests about crucial topics.”
In taking note of the announcement of Levin joining FNC, most of the mainstream press saw it as Fox News reinforcing its perceived pro-Trump tilt. Politico, for example, noted:
“It’s clearly another step in Fox News Channel’s evolution to a more Trump-friendly series of programming,” said Dan Shelley, executive director of the Radio Television Digital News Association. “It’s right in their current wheelhouse.” . . .
The network has stuffed its lineup of opinion hosts with consistent cheerleaders for the president. Former mainstay Megyn Kelly was known for feuding with Trump, and even Bill O’Reilly — who was forced out by the network in April amid sexual harassment accusations — would break with him occasionally, but Fox’s current prime-time lineup of Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham rarely criticizes Trump, and goes to great lengths to defend him. Levin fits into that mold.
The 10 p.m. Sunday time slot is not a high-profile one, though it could lead to bigger things, according to Brian Wieser, a senior analyst at Pivotal Research.
“If someone is getting a Sunday 10 p.m. show, it’s safe to say that’s a trial run,” he said. If viewing levels build or the show develops well, he said, “then it can be given a time slot which is more likely to get greater viewing.”
Shelley also noted that the move locks in Levin — a highly established name in conservative media — from joining other competitors.
The MSM has a vested interest in spinning Fox News as a one-voice, pro-Trump propaganda mouthpiece. The reality is that progressive leftists are represented throughout the day on the channel. And even in prime time, when conservative hosts rule the 8-11 P.M. time period, Democrat and other left of center guests are regularly heard, in fact every night without fail on Tucker Carlson’s show at 8 P.M. and also often on Hannity at 9 and The Ingraham Angle at 10. Levin himself was not initially pro-Trump and in fact he opposed Donald Trump’s candidacy until September 2016. Lately, Levin has been more sympathetic to the Trump administration, especially in the face of the Deep State’s overwhelming resistance to the Trump agenda, but not without criticizing it from time to time.
Peter Chowka is a veteran reporter and analyst of news on national politics, media, and popular culture. Follow Peter on Twitter @pchowka Peter’s latest interview on The Hagmann Report from Nov. 15, 2017 can be watched here.