If you thought Fox News would take a new direction in prime time following the ouster of conservative provocateur Tucker Carlson, the choice for fill-in host in the hour next week suggests otherwise.
Kayleigh McEnany, who served 10 months as press secretary in the Trump administration, is getting a weeklong tryout in the high profile 8 p.m. Eastern hour starting Monday.
The network is searching for a replacement for Carlson, who was fired April 24 amid revelations that he made racist comments, promoted a conspiracy about the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and sent texts critical of Fox News correspondents who fact-checked the unfounded election fraud claims on the network, even though he did not believe them himself.
But there are no signs Fox News is giving up on provocative and inflammatory viewpoints in the hour. McEnany comes in with a head start on creating controversy as she made a racially offensive crack Friday on “Outnumbered,” the Fox News daytime show where she is a co-host.
McEnany introduced a discussion of a New York City protest over the May 1 killing of a Black homeless man by a Marine veteran on a subway train. Jordan Neely, 30, who had a history of mental illness and multiple arrests for assault, ranted and allegedly terrorized passengers before the veteran put him in a choke hold that police have determined caused his death.
After coming out of video showing a drum-beating mixed-race crowd chanting about Neely’s death, McEnany said “Justice or burn it down — well at least they have rhythm,” evoking a stereotype about Black people.
Through a Fox News representative, McEnany said she did not know the racial make-up of the protesters. She said she heard singing in her ear through the segment and did not see the video.
But her remark was not lost on critics who saw it on Twitter. Many said it showed how McEnany is ready to pander to the MAGA element in Carlson’s audience, which has fled in droves since the host was ousted.
“OMG! #KayLie doesn’t even try to hide her bigotry. C’mon #FauxNews! Can’t you hire someone better?” wrote Erin Snider, a retired teacher, on Twitter.
Fox News has lost more than 50% of the 3 million-plus viewers who were watching Carlson in the hour, and has seen declines throughout prime time in the wake of his firing.
The network is still the most-watched cable news channel, outperforming MSNBC and CNN, according to Nielsen.
McEnany, the third on-air talent to get a tryout in Carlson’s time period, was hired by Fox News in March 2021.
During her tenure at the White House, McEnany had a reputation for perpetuating Trump’s falsehoods from the lectern of the White House briefing room.
Fox News even cut away from her during a Nov. 9, 2020 press conference, when she repeated Trump’s unfounded claims of voter fraud in the election he lost to Joe Biden.
Airing such claims cost Fox News mightily, as it paid a record setting $787.5-million settlement to Dominion Voting Systems, which sued the Rupert Murdoch-controlled network for defamation.
Carlson was under fire throughout his Fox News run for racist and extremist comments he made on air. He once described white supremacy as a “hoax” and complained that immigrants across the Southern border make America “poorer and dirtier and more divided.”
He was particularly critical of the Black Lives Matter movement after the police killing of George Floyd in 2020. He sowed doubt about the circumstances of Floyd’s murder and said Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer convicted of taking his life, was subjected to a “lynching” by the media.
A leak of redacted texts and testimony gathered in evidence for the Dominion Voting Systems case against Fox News showed he expressed similar views off camera.
Tucker described his enthusiasm, followed by ambivalence, while watching a video of Trump supporters beating a member of the left-wing group Antifa. He remarked, “It’s not how white men fight,” the New York Times reported.
Dan Webb, an attorney representing Fox News, sent a formal letter to Claire Locke, one of the firms representing Dominion, asking that it investigate the source of the Carlson-related leaks that have appeared in the press.
Dominion issued a statement saying the company had nothing to do with the disclosures.
“Nobody associated with Dominion shared these confidential materials with the press,” a representative said.
Fox News lawyers are also looking to shut down leaks by liberal watchdog Media Matters, which has been posting video of Carlson on the set while getting make-up.
Carlson is seen in one video asking the female make-up artist if “pillow fights ever break out” in the ladies room. In another clip he is bantering about sex before going on with British host Piers Morgan. A third clip shows him complaining about the Dominion attorney who questioned him in court.
Fox News sent a cease and desist order to Media Matters on Friday, saying the organization is unlawfully using its intellectual property by presenting the videos, which did not appear on the network’s air.
A representative for Media Matters said “reporting on newsworthy leaked material is a cornerstone of journalism.”