Here comes the judge: Fox News adds Jeanine Pirro to ‘The Five’

Jeanine Pirro, a fiery conservative commentator for Fox News, is joining the channel’s roundtable program “The Five,” which has emerged as one of the most popular shows on cable TV.

Pirro is giving up her weekly Saturday night program, “Justice With Judge Jeanine,” to take the daily job alongside co-hosts Jesse Watters, Dana Perino and Greg Gutfeld. Fox News also announced that veteran correspondent Geraldo Rivera, former congressman Harold Ford and commentator Jessica Tarlov will rotate in the program’s “liberal” co-host spot previously held by Juan Williams.

The elevation of Pirro, a former judge and prosecutor, is a sign of how Fox News aims to satisfy its audience, even if it means a larger platform for an on-air talent who has been problematic for the company.

Pirro is a defendant in the defamation lawsuit filed by voter software company Smartmatic. The $2.7 billion suit alleges she presented false conspiracy theories and accusations about Smartmatic’s role in the 2020 election. Fox has filed four motions to dismiss the suit.

Pirro also earned a rare public rebuke from Fox News in March 2019 after she questioned whether Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) was committed to Sharia law and Islamic doctrine because she wore a hijab, a traditional head covering worn by Muslim women. The network said it had “addressed the matter directly” with Pirro, who was suspended and off the air for two weeks over the remarks.

But Pirro is popular with Fox News fans for her brash on-air style. Pirro’s viral on-air moments inspired a breakout impersonation by Cecily Strong on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” who portrays her as a red wine-loving harpy.

Pirro, a rabid Donald Trump supporter, does turn down the political rhetoric and is more clear-eyed when she delivers legal analysis on Fox News. As a guest co-host on “The Five,” she praised the murder conviction of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd.

From left, Dagen McDowell and Jessica Tarlov with “The Five” co-hosts Jesse Watters, Dana Perino and Greg Gutfeld.

(Michael Nagle / For The Times)

Pirro is boarding what has become a juggernaut for Fox News. While “The Five” airs outside of prime time at 5 p.m. Eastern, it has averaged 3.3 million viewers in the fourth quarter of 2021, according to Nielsen data — topping everything else on cable news, including Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

Two of “The Five” co-hosts have been given daily programs of their own in the past year. Gutfeld has his own comedy talk show at 11 p.m. Eastern while Watters was recently named host of the 7 p.m. Eastern hour on Fox News, starting Jan. 24.

While most of the co-hosts and guests on “The Five” tout the conservative talking points heard on “Fox News,” it is the rare cable news program that regularly presents opposing viewpoints.

Cecily Strong as Judge Jeanine Pirro during "Weekend Update" on "Saturday Night Live."

Cecily Strong as Judge Jeanine Pirro during “SNL’s” “Weekend Update” on Saturday, May 22, 2021.

(Will Heath / NBC)

Tarlov is the most progressive of three co-hosts tapped for the rotating role of liberal co-host, previously held by Williams. A former pollster who has been a frequent guest on Fox News since 2017, she currently serves as vice president of research and consumer insight for Bustle Media Group.

Rivera has filled various roles at Fox News as a correspondent and host. He will continue to be a correspondent-at-large as well as appearing on “The Five.”

Ford joined Fox News as a contributor in 2021 and guest co-hosted on “The Five” throughout the last year. He served in the U.S. Congress as a Democrat representing his Tennessee district for five terms from 1997 to 2007.

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