I tuned out of cable news sometime during grad school where, even then, I would only watch it while on the elliptical in the gym. Yet it is still a powerful enough medium that the rotation of who is on during what time slot remains an ongoing mainstream topic of conversation. 

It doesn’t help that news networks all seem to be jockeying for better access to the political and celebrity classes, and have merged their business model with entertainment. For much of the last generation Fox News has been blamed for this trend, and consequently has been treated as a right-wing propaganda machine. To be clear, Rupert Murdoch’s network has done a lot to justify that label by having conservative pundit shows featuring the likes of Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. But it beggars belief to say Fox’s competition really sees this as an egregious sin, when they continue to hire Fox’s on-air and online “talent.” 

The recent hirings of Stephen Hayes by NBC and Jonah Goldberg by CNN are just the latest in a long line of Fox alumni that curiously made their way over to the other side of the divide.

Unforgivable Until All Is Forgotten

For those of us still under 50, Fox News may still carry the bitter aftertaste of the Bush Administration and the outdated talking heads format. According to the Reuters Institute, 45 percent of adults aged 18-24 get their first daily news consumption from smartphones, and 39 percent of adults aged 25-34 do as well. TV and cable news is largely the domain of Generation X and the Baby Boomers. The heyday of cable news is long gone, and after a year of people quarantined at home in 2020, viewership tanked in 2021. 

But for Hayes and Goldberg, being on television represents the apex of their craft, and like Bret Stephens of the New York Times, they seem to be content as the in-house “conservative” who can offer a watered-down alternative to the activist left-wingers. 

The war on Fox preceded the Trump era by years. Other networks fumed at the way it was able to garner such great ratings, calling it propaganda. And yet, the luring away of former Fox personalities goes back at least a decade. Here is a short list of former Fox on-air people who moved over to other networks:

  • Greta Van Susteren (2002-2016), NBC News (2017)
  • Shepard Smith (1996-2019), CNBC (2020-)
  • Megyn Kelly (2004-2017), NBC (2017-2019)
  • Alisyn Camerota (1998-2014), CNN (2014-)
  • Major Garrett (2009-2010), CBS (2012-)
  • Catherine Herridge (1996-2019), CBS (2019-)
  • Margaret Hoover (2008-2012), CNN (2012-), PBS (2018-)
  • Chris Wallace (2003-2021), CNN (2022-)

Wallace’s exit was considered something of a surprise since he was leaving in order to join CNN’s yet unlaunched streaming service, CNN+. Add to this cohort people with even more dubious résumés such as Oliver Darcy and S.E. Cupp, a former contributor to conservative pundit Glenn Beck’s Blaze Media who during the Trump era became a premier inquisitor of the Right. Or Bill Kristol, the founder of the neoconservative Weekly Standard, who was once a regular on “Fox News Sunday” during the Bush era, and then became a regular guest on CNN during the Obama era. 

Slow Course Correction?

The hiring of Hayes and Goldberg comes at a conspicuous time for CNN and NBC. Both networks are struggling to find a way to conserve audiences burnt out by the sensationalist headlines of the Trump era and COVID-19 pandemic. So what are they getting out of these hires?

Stephen Hayes started his career in the old pre-9/11 print media world of the New York PostWashington Times, and especially National Review. By 2003 he had developed enough of an authoritative profile that a piece he wrote for The Weekly Standard titled “Case Closed” was used as a retroactive justification for the Iraq War after coalition forces failed to turn up evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Hayes’ story cited a leaked Pentagon memo detailing operational links between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

Later, Vice President Dick Cheney would point to Hayes’ article as “evidence” of an link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda, even though it was only based on a memo from Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith. Years later the same playbook used in Iraq was dusted off for the Steele dossier: 1) Gin up a rumor based on deliberately leaked classified “intelligence” about a certain target and then 2) when questioned about the justification for any measures taken in reaction to it, cite the press article generated by the same leaked information as a second source. Hayes would eventually come to be the editor of The Weekly Standard in 2016, but within two years its parent media company decided to shutter the operation.

tuned out of cable news sometime during grad school where, even then, I would only watch it while on the elliptical in the gym. Yet it is still a powerful enough medium that the rotation of who is on during what time slot remains an ongoing mainstream topic of conversation. 

It doesn’t help that news networks all seem to be jockeying for better access to the political and celebrity classes, and have merged their business model with entertainment. For much of the last generation Fox News has been blamed for this trend, and consequently has been treated as a right-wing propaganda machine. To be clear, Rupert Murdoch’s network has done a lot to justify that label by having conservative pundit shows featuring the likes of Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. But it beggars belief to say Fox’s competition really sees this as an egregious sin, when they continue to hire Fox’s on-air and online “talent.” 

The recent hirings of Stephen Hayes by NBC and Jonah Goldberg by CNN are just the latest in a long line of Fox alumni that curiously made their way over to the other side of the divide.

Unforgivable Until All Is Forgotten

For those of us still under 50, Fox News may still carry the bitter aftertaste of the Bush Administration and the outdated talking heads format. According to the Reuters Institute, 45 percent of adults aged 18-24 get their first daily news consumption from smartphones, and 39 percent of adults aged 25-34 do as well. TV and cable news is largely the domain of Generation X and the Baby Boomers. The heyday of cable news is long gone, and after a year of people quarantined at home in 2020, viewership tanked in 2021. 

But for Hayes and Goldberg, being on television represents the apex of their craft, and like Bret Stephens of the New York Times, they seem to be content as the in-house “conservative” who can offer a watered-down alternative to the activist left-wingers. 

The war on Fox preceded the Trump era by years. Other networks fumed at the way it was able to garner such great ratings, calling it propaganda. And yet, the luring away of former Fox personalities goes back at least a decade. Here is a short list of former Fox on-air people who moved over to other networks:

  • Greta Van Susteren (2002-2016), NBC News (2017)
  • Shepard Smith (1996-2019), CNBC (2020-)
  • Megyn Kelly (2004-2017), NBC (2017-2019)
  • Alisyn Camerota (1998-2014), CNN (2014-)
  • Major Garrett (2009-2010), CBS (2012-)
  • Catherine Herridge (1996-2019), CBS (2019-)
  • Margaret Hoover (2008-2012), CNN (2012-), PBS (2018-)
  • Chris Wallace (2003-2021), CNN (2022-)

Wallace’s exit was considered something of a surprise since he was leaving in order to join CNN’s yet unlaunched streaming service, CNN+. Add to this cohort people with even more dubious résumés such as Oliver Darcy and S.E. Cupp, a former contributor to conservative pundit Glenn Beck’s Blaze Media who during the Trump era became a premier inquisitor of the Right. Or Bill Kristol, the founder of the neoconservative Weekly Standard, who was once a regular on “Fox News Sunday” during the Bush era, and then became a regular guest on CNN during the Obama era. 

Slow Course Correction?

The hiring of Hayes and Goldberg comes at a conspicuous time for CNN and NBC. Both networks are struggling to find a way to conserve audiences burnt out by the sensationalist headlines of the Trump era and COVID-19 pandemic. So what are they getting out of these hires?

Stephen Hayes started his career in the old pre-9/11 print media world of the New York PostWashington Times, and especially National Review. By 2003 he had developed enough of an authoritative profile that a piece he wrote for The Weekly Standard titled “Case Closed” was used as a retroactive justification for the Iraq War after coalition forces failed to turn up evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Hayes’ story cited a leaked Pentagon memo detailing operational links between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

Later, Vice President Dick Cheney would point to Hayes’ article as “evidence” of an link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda, even though it was only based on a memo from Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith. Years later the same playbook used in Iraq was dusted off for the Steele dossier: 1) Gin up a rumor based on deliberately leaked classified “intelligence” about a certain target and then 2) when questioned about the justification for any measures taken in reaction to it, cite the press article generated by the same leaked information as a second source. Hayes would eventually come to be the editor of The Weekly Standard in 2016, but within two years its parent media company decided to shutter the operation.

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