That was how Greta Van Susteren’s 14 years at Fox News ended: With not even a fare-thee-well to viewers.
Van Susteren, host of “On the Record” on the No. 1-rated cable news network, had her last show on Thursday. On Tuesday, it was announced she would leave the network which, she wrote on Facebook, “has not felt like home to me for a few years.” Fox News made things even more uncomfortable by quickly scrubbing the network’s website of her blog, Gretawire.
Attempts by TheWrap to reach Van Susteren through her husband and lawyer, John P. Coale, were not successful. While it’s natural to wonder where she might head next — Van Susteren fled to Fox in 2002 after complaining that CNN had treated her like “a second-class citizen” and failed to hire enough non-white anchors — the more urgent question is whether her exit is merely the first shoe to drop at Fox News.
The sudden departure of Fox News czar Roger Ailes last month looks likely to topple the empire he painstakingly built. Ailes was broomed, with surprising swiftness, after former host Gretchen Carlson sued in July for sexual harassment. That case has now been settled with a reported $20 million payout to the plaintiff.
Van Susteren performed well in the ratings, but “On the Record” is no “O’Reilly Factor,” Bill O’Reilly‘s nightly roster of grievance against those he feels have wronged America — or him or both. O’Reilly is the linchpin of Fox’s prime time lineup, and if he were to leave Fox’s ratings would be dealt a heavy blow. He has already made noise in interviews about tiring of the nightly grind. However, he has a lucrative side business in the book publishing trade, and losing his 8 p.m. podium would mean the end of a marketing bonanza. There are still many famous figures whose killings or attempted killings O’Reilly could yet profitably re-investigate.
Sean Hannity could also pose a flight risk for Fox News, although that may be somewhat contingent on the November election. He’s been friendly enough to Donald Trump that a White House post wouldn’t be out of the question. And then there’s Megyn Kelly, Fox’s endlessly restive rising star, who seems eager to encourage the belief that every network in the world wants to grab her when her contract ends next year.
All empires end, of course, but the deeper existential threat to Fox News’ may not be fleeing talent but passing time. In 1996, the year that Fox News went on the air, non-Hispanic whites comprised of about 60 percent of all live births in the U.S.
By 2015, that had shrunk to 53 percent, bringing the long-predicted end of America’s white majority into view. Those white Americans — especially the older ones — are the core viewers for O’Reilly, Hannity, Van Susteren and the rest. It’s a steadily shrinking group, at least in percentage terms. A network can grow new talent and a network can fight bad PR. Demography is a tougher nut to crack.
An important story, for sure, but one that you now won’t see Van Susteren reporting about for “On the Record.”