By Peter Barry Chowka
On Friday evening August 4 at 8:23 PM, an article was published at HuffPost: “Fox News Host Sent Unsolicited Lewd Text Messages To Colleagues, Sources Say.” The article had obviously been in preparation for some time, since it included a statement from the targeted host’s attorney in defense of his client. The host in question is Eric Bolling, 54, a friend of President Donald Trump and a passionate defender of the president in his role as a prominent anchor and co-host on the Fox News channel (FNC).
These days, in the toxic climate of “Resistance” that has captured about half of the population and 90% or more of academia, the news media, popular culture, and the bureaucracy, anyone who supports Trump – like Eric Bolling, for example – risks being taken down.
Friday night, after seeing the HuffPost article, which was also mass distributed by Yahoo News, FNC executives, according to a Fox News spokesperson, decided that Bolling’s weekly half-hour Saturday morning FNC show Cashin’ In, that had already been pre-recorded as usual on Friday, would not be shown. A live news broadcast was substituted instead. On Saturday, an FNC spokesperson issued a terse statement: “Eric Bolling has been suspended pending the results of an investigation, which is currently underway.” Later Saturday afternoon, an FNC spokesperson emailed me with this additional information.
Paul, Weiss is conducting the investigation.
Rotating substitute hosts will be in place on The Specialists (weekdays/5pm) and Cashin’ In (Saturdays at 11:30am).
After the suspension was announced, Bolling’s attorney Michael J. Bowe defended his client in an email, according to the AP:
“The anonymous, uncorroborated claims are untrue and terribly unfair. We intend to fully cooperate with the investigation so that it can be concluded and Eric can return to work as quickly as possible.”
The Fox News Specialists, which Bolling co-hosts, is the hour-long M-F program that was added to the FNC schedule on May 1 at 5 PM ET when The Five, a similar talk program that previously held the time slot, was moved to 9 PM. Prior to working in television, Bolling was an independent trader based out of the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) and he also served on the NYMEX’s Board of Directors for five years. A Fox Business Network (FBN) and Fox News channel personality since 2007, Bolling has proven himself to be a reliable and principled conservative. Never taking himself too seriously, Bolling’s trademark has been his disinclination to wear a necktie except when he was required to do so, for example when he occasionally filled in as a substitute host for Bill O’Reilly in prime time.
Bolling had made a leap to prominence as one of The Five’s original co-hosts when that program premiered on July 11, 2011 and quickly became one of the most popular programs on the channel. He stayed with The Five until late April 2017, when Suzanne Scott, at the time the executive vice president of programming at Fox News, announced that Bolling had been selected to co-host the new program The Fox News Specialists along with Eboni K. Williams and Kat Timpf.
What is Paul, Weiss?
Paul, Weiss (formally Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP) is a large, prominent, New York based international law firm that was founded in 1875. It employs over 950 attorneys at offices around the U.S. and in major foreign capitals. The firm has been enlisted several times during the past year – possibly in an ongoing contractural basis – to “investigate” a number of allegations of sexual harassment that were leveled at prominent Fox News executives and on-air talent. After investigations of Fox News co-founder and CEO Roger Ailes, the channel’s number one host Bill O’Reilly, and several other Fox executives, they all left the company, either fired outright or after being forced to resign. All of the departed individuals, it should be noted for the record, have consistently professed their innocence. (Ailes passed away on May 18, 2017 and maintained his innocence until the end of his life.) None of the allegations against any of the individuals accused in the media has made it to court where they could have, or might have had as in the case of Ailes, an opportunity to defend themselves.
Only two months ago, on June 5, Fox News announced that Bolling had been signed to a “multiyear” contract. In a news release, Suzanne Scott, who had been elevated to president of programming for FNC, said:
“Eric has cultivated a strong fan base and has become a staple to the FOX News brand. His insight is valued and we are pleased to have him at the network for many more years to come “
On Saturday evening, August 5, the official Fox News Web page for The Specialists was not loading. One presumes that it might have been taken offline while it is being updated to reflect the suspension of Eric Bolling. The program’s official Twitter page, meanwhile, was still functioning, and while it continued to display numerous photos and video clips that included Bolling, it had removed his name from the program’s description:
Hosted by @kattimpf & @ebonikwilliams. Tune in weekdays at 5pm ET on @FoxNews Channel!
The removal of Eric Bolling from his on-air duties at Fox News comes within the context of major, highly visible changes at the channel during the past year. Just over one year ago, Roger Ailes, the acknowledged mastermind of Fox News’ success, left the company. The decision was not his. That landmark event represented the beginning of a sea change in the direction and the look of the venerable news channel. An indirect result was the departure for NBC News of the FNC’s prime time marquee host and the co-anchor of special events coverage Megyn Kelly in early January 2017. On April 19, 2017, after an advertiser boycott of his show that was continuing to gain momentum, Bill O’Reilly left Fox and his #1 program that aired nightly at 8 PM. On May 1, Bill Shine, an Ailes protégé who had played a major programming role at FNC since Ailes’s departure, also left.
These and several other departures upended FNC’s prime time schedule that had dominated the cable news ratings for the previous fifteen years. While Fox News is still competitive against MSNBC and CNN, each night in prime time is now a battleground for viewers, a war of attrition, in both the preferred “demo” (the demographic slice of viewers ages 25-54 that most advertisers covet) and the total number of people watching television.
Even before the schedule changes this past spring, there were reports that Eric Bolling, clearly a rising talent at the channel, was reportedly under consideration for an expanded role, possibly as the host of his own show or to replace Bill O’Reilly after the latter’s firing. Until last Friday, Bolling was the stalwart conservative co-host of The Specialists and a consistent defender of the Trump Administration and its agenda while his co-hosts on the program, 28-year old attorney Eboni K. Williams, who usually comes across as left of center, and 28-year-old Libertarian former comedian Kat Timpf, who was and still largely is a never-Trumper, were usually more skeptical of the POTUS.
If past is prologue, the announcement that attorneys from Paul, Weiss will be doing the investigating does not bode well for the outcome of the Bolling affair. All of their previous investigations have been associated with the targets ultimately leaving the channel. And for what it’s worth, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Paul, Weiss was among the top twenty law firms in the country contributing to federal candidates during the 2012 election cycle – a total of $1.23 million donated by the firm’s employees with 81% of that going to the Democrats.
Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran journalist who writes about national politics, media, popular culture, and health care. He is a frequent contributor to American Thinker and The Hagmann Report. His new website is AltMedNews.net. Peter’s July 28, 2017 90-minute interview on The Hagmann Report can be watched here.
By Peter Barry Chowka
The Fake News-inspired perception that existential problems are enveloping the Trump Administration is expanding and deepening. As this questionable meme takes hold, it appears that the current toxic political climate is drawing more anti-Trump viewers to the partisan attack “resistance” programs that are playing out nightly on two of the three cable television news channels. Meanwhile, the new ratings war among the three 24/7 cable news outlets is settling into an ongoing war of attrition.
In recent weeks, the Fox News Channel (FNC), considered the most friendly to President Trump, has lost the commanding ratings lead that it held for the past decade and a half. On most – but not all – weeknights now, FNC is coming in second or third to MSNBC in prime time when the preferred demographic or “the demo” (viewers between the ages of 25 and 54) is the metric. The other anti-Trump channel, CNN, has seen its ratings rise, too, and occasionally it wins an hour or two in prime time. With the future of FNC’s iconic conservative program Hannity in doubt, the outlook for Fox News is, at best, increasingly uncertain.
See also: Bill O’Reilly promises ‘stunning’ information about his firing by Fox News as litigation likely
The rewards for the winner of the cable news wars are substantial. According to a 2015 New York Times Magazine profileof Fox News anchor-star Megyn Kelly, who has since jumped to NBC, “During a 10-year span, Fox News’s profits grew six-fold to $1.2 billion in 2014, on total operating revenue of $2 billion, according to the financial analysis firm SNL Kagan.” On April 20, 2017, the Hollywood Reporter noted that 20 percent of the profits for 21st Century Fox in 2016 came from Fox News, “the biggest-earning division in the company.”
The unprecedented success of the Fox News Channel is accountable to billionaire international media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who bankrolled the effort, and Roger Ailes (1940-2017), the legendary TV producer, political consultant, and all around media genius. Ted Turner, the founder of CNN in 1980 and another larger than life personality, believed that “the news is the star.” Ailes discovered and nurtured personalities – attractive ones, at that – and made them the stars of his channel. (Ailes’s 1987 book on how to achieve success is titled You Are The Message: Secrets of the Mass Communicators.) This ethos had a profound impact on the other news channels, which, like FNC, are also now largely personality driven.