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

Stephen Battaglio
Los Angeles Times

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 along side 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 be rotate in the “liberal” co-host spot on the program previously held by Juan Williams.

In this Jan. 28, 2015 file photo, Jeanine Pirro attends the HBO Documentary Series premiere of "THE JINX: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst" in New York.

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 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 which says she presented false conspiracy theories and accusations about the 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 Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd.

Pirro is boarding what has become a juggernaut for Fox News. While the program airs outside of prime time at 5 p.m. ET, “The Five” averaged 3.3 million viewers in the fourth quarter of 2021, according to Nielsen data–topping everything else on cable news including “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. while Watters was recently named host of the 7 p.m. hour on Fox News. He starts on Jan. 24.

While most of the co-hosts and guests on “The Five” tout the conservative points heard throughout the day and night on “Fox News,” it is the rare cable news program that regularly presents opposing viewpoints. For years the role was filled by liberal commentator Juan Williams, who left the program last year.

Williams’ seat has been filled by a rotation of co-hosts, which will remain the permanent arrangement.

Tarlov is the most progressive of three co-hosts tapped for the role. 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 Democratic representing his Tennessee district for five terms from 1997–2007.