Fox News announced on Wednesday that it has rewarded Judge Jeanine Pirro with a permanent co-hosting gig on its ratings juggernaut The Five—even though the longtime weekend host has been directly responsible for what is arguably the network’s biggest legal headache in years.
Pirro, who has been with the network since 2006, was named last year in voting software company Smartmatic’s $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, several hosts, and associates of former President Donald Trump. The lawsuit, which Pirro and Fox News have filed motions to dismiss, said the network and some of its stars baselessly accused the firm of rigging the 2020 presidential election against Trump.
While Pirro’s attorneys have argued that the suit is “meritless” and that she was merely engaged in commentary protected by the First Amendment, a judge appeared sympathetic to Smartmatic when weighing Fox’s dismissal motion last August. “How is that not defamatory?” Judge David Cohen asked during oral arguments. Another judge declined to dismiss a similar defamation suit filed against Fox by voting software company Dominion last month.
But despite the controversy surrounding Pirro’s conspiratorial ravings, Fox News promoted the MAGA diehard on Wednesday, making her a face of cable news’ most-watched show. (The Five led all of cable news in total viewers last quarter and finished second in the key advertising demographic of viewers ages 25-54.)
“The Five continues to be a beloved show by the American audience,” Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott said in a statement on Pirro’s promotion. “Each of the co-hosts are accomplished and insightful talent with diverse opinions and terrific chemistry who will certainly help drive this ensemble program going forward.”
Pirro will relinquish her Saturday night Fox News show Justice with Jeanine, which she has hosted since 2011. (The former judge was suspended from that show for two weeks in 2019 after making Islamophobic remarks about Rep. Ilhan Omar, who is Muslim.) She will continue to host Castles USA, which features Pirro looking at castles, and airs on Fox’s online streaming service Fox Nation.
The seat that Pirro takes over on the five-person panel has not been permanently filled since Kimberly Guilfoyle left the network in 2018. After departing Fox amid a misconduct probe for allegedly sharing explicit photos, Guilfoyle has become a key MAGA operative and is now engaged to Donald Trump Jr.
Besides Pirro’s permanent installment on The Five, Fox News also announced that it will now feature a rotating slate of three co-hosts to fill the supposed “liberal” seat vacated last year by Juan Williams. That rotation will include former Democratic congressman Harold Ford Jr., liberal Fox News contributor Jessica Tarlov, and Fox News correspondent-at-large Geraldo Rivera, who recently weighed a Republican Senate run in Ohio.
Pirro, meanwhile, isn’t the only Fox News host who has seen their stock rise recently despite ongoing controversy.
Jesse Watters, who is also one of the permanent co-hosts of The Five, was recently given his own weeknight talk show by the network. His promotion took place just weeks after Fox News was inundated with calls to fire the pro-Trump host after he urged viewers to “ambush” Dr. Anthony Fauci on the street with “kill shot” questions until “he’s dead”—and then send the video to Fox News in order to obtain viral fame. The network defended Watters amid the backlash, claiming he was merely “using a metaphor for asking hard-hitting questions” and that his “words have been twisted completely out of context.”