News & Politics

Greta Van Susteren Out at MSNBC After 6 Months

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

Greta Van Susteren left the comfort of the Fox News newsroom late last year and signed on with rival liberal network MSNBC. Her show, “For the Record,” debuted on January 9.

It never took off.

Today, Vanity Fair is reporting, and Van Susteren confirmed via a tweet, that she is out of a job.

But a few days shy of her six-month mark on air, Van Susteren’s business is finished on MSNBC, according to people familiar with the situation. The anchor, whose show struggled to gain traction even as the rest of her colleagues were buoyed by anti-Trump hysteria, has parted ways with the network. She will not appear on the show on Thursday evening. She will be permanently replaced by Ari Melber, the network’s chief legal correspondent and host of the The Point on weekends. He will continue to appear across NBC and MSNBC shows as he takes over the 6 p.m. slot next month. (MSNBC and NBC News declined to comment. Reached by phone Thursday afternoon, Van Susteren had no comment.)

The decision comes as much of the rest of MSNBC has been enjoying a ratings resurgence, and, in some cases, dominance over Fox News. For the first time in 17 years, the network beat both Fox News and CNN in prime-time viewership on weeknights in May amongst the crucial 25-to-54 age demographic—a giant 118 percent leap from a year earlier. In the full second quarter, according to ratings released by Nielsen earlier this week, the network came in second behind Fox for total day viewers, but its growth from a year earlier outpaced both its rivals. Much of this growth is due to prime-time anchors like Rachel Maddowand Lawrence O’Donnell, whose nightly newscasts have tapped into a potent mix of liberal anxiety and schadenfreude over the Trump presidency. In the second quarter, Maddow’s show won the demo in prime-time, though Fox’s Tucker Carlson had the highest number of total viewers. Van Susteren’s show, however, fell behind its rivals in the 6 p.m. hour.

Last month, in a New York Times profile about the network’s ascendancy in the age of Trump, NBC News chairman Andrew Lack seemed to hint that there was trouble brewing for the show. “It’s not breaking out,” he said. “Everybody wants every new show to break out Day 1. I think it takes time. He added: “I’ve got a lot of patience.”

That patience ran out, however, at the same time as Lack and executives at NBC have been putting out fires with Van Susteren’s former Fox News colleague, Megyn Kelly, who has hit repeated bumps in the road since her Sunday evening show premiered earlier this month.

Anger and hate sell and Van Susteren didn’t have them. She has never been a bomb thrower against either side, which was fine at Fox News because of the heavy hitters, Hannity and O’Reilly, who came after her in the primetime lineup.

But in the Age of Trump, you have to sell the hate to be successful. This is especially true at MSNBC, which specializes in generating anger and hysteria against the president. That’s not Van Susteren’s style so she had to go.

With Fox News in turmoil, losing talent right and left, you would think the other cable nets would take full advantage. In fact, MSNBC is doing much better in the ratings but still trails the stumbling Fox News. Their primetime viewership went up a whopping 78% in the 2nd quarter this year compared to last year. But that really isn’t saying much considering how far down they were at this time last year:

Primetime
FNC: 2,352,000 total viewers (up 19 percent); 472,000 adults 25-54 (up 34 percent)
CNN: 1,055,000 total viewers (up 10 percent); 370,000 adults 25-54 (up 19 percent)
MSNBC: 1,637,000 total viewers (up 86 percent); 389,000 adults 25-54 (up 78 percent)

Van Susteren won’t be unemployed for long. But can she be successful anywhere given her less-than-bombastic personality? You would hope so. There should be room somewhere in the media for a host who places substance over narrative.