Williams, who now hosts a weekly news show for the much smaller Revolt TV, understands what they meant: After Fox, she needed to go somewhere else first, before they would even consider hiring her.
“Nobody wants to be the first to pick up a Fox News talent,” she said. “Once you’re at Fox three or more years, you are indoctrinated with that Fox News branding, and it becomes almost impossible to shake.”
Williams is among the Fox News veterans, both journalists and pundits, who say they’ve faced skepticism in the job market since leaving the network. While Fox has always leaned right, particularly its nighttime punditry hours, its image as a fortress of conservatism has been hardened during the Trump presidency, as fire-breathing hosts such as Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham have gone to extreme rhetorical lengths to defend the president and attack his critics. Fairly or not, that reputation has rubbed off even on many of Fox’s most ardently nonpartisan journalists.
“Every time one of the prime-time hosts says something inflammatory, it does end up coloring the view of the entire place and all the people who work there,” said former news host Alisyn Camerota, one of a dozen on-air Fox veterans interviewed for this story. “You are often painted with a broad brush, and it’s a negative one, for having worked at Fox.”
In the six years since she left Fox for CNN, Camerota says she’s helped more than a dozen Fox staffers who have come to her for advice on how to find a job somewhere else — people “who were pretty desperate to get out and wanted to know how to do it.”
Conor Powell, a former Fox News foreign correspondent who now freelances for CNN and hosts a podcast about political history, says he’s learned how to address the concerns of potential employers during network job interviews.
“Most people dance around it, but they are usually trying to determine if I was a crazy Fox person,” he said. “If I explain my career and why I left, I haven’t had any issues.” Says another former Fox News reporter who is currently on the job market, it has “not exactly been a walk in the park . . . with this place on [your] résumé.”
Some have pivoted to local news, such as Courtney Friel, news anchor at KTLA-TV in Los Angeles, who says her time at the network, from 2007 to 2013, remains a major conversation starter. “People always have tons of questions about my time at Fox News,” she said, some of them critical: “Still, to this day, I get people who tweet at me like, ‘Oh, your Fox News is showing.’ ”
To be sure, many journalists and commentators have been able to successfully transition away from Fox and turbocharge their careers elsewhere, including Camerota, who co-anchors CNN’s morning news show, and Abby Huntsman and Meghan McCain, who joined ABC’s “The View.” (Eboni K. Williams, meanwhile, announced last week she would join the cast of “The Real Housewives of New York.”) The television news industry is also an extremely competitive one for everyone, with on-air jobs rarely turning over and internal candidates already waiting in the wings. Some Fox talent who chime with the company’s politics find themselves nonetheless trapped by the network’s success — with Fox having established dominance as the major conservative media player, there are few other outlets that could offer comparable jobs.
But even some of the success stories have included hurdles. Catherine Herridge, who left Fox after 23 years to become a senior investigative correspondent for CBS News, has faced skepticism from some of her colleagues who see her reporting as having a conservative bent. In her case, it doesn’t help that the president keeps giving her shout-outs at events. In Megyn Kelly’s brief, doomed tenure at NBC News, where she tried to re-create herself as a cheery late-morning host, she continued to face criticism for things she said during her time as a combative evening host, such as her 2013 assertion that Santa Claus is White.
In “Hoax,” his new book about Fox News in the Trump era, CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter wrote that some network personalities remain at the network because of a concern that “they aren’t really marketable to other networks.” He added: “They’re usually right.”
“It’s almost impossible to leave and go somewhere else,” said former Fox News host Juliet Huddy, who has been unable to land a TV job since leaving the network in 2016 and settling a sexual harassment claim against Bill O’Reilly. “You really have to be very, very lucky, or have a great agent, or really have made your position there clear that you are an independent voice and you’re a voice that is not part of the propaganda.”
That’s exactly why many Fox News veterans think that former news anchor Shepard Smith was able to land a new show on CNBC after abruptly resigning from Fox in October 2019. During the Trump administration, Smith used his daily hour to push back on the president’s falsehoods — and, occasionally, those of his opinion-side colleagues.
“Even if you were at Fox, you still have some credibility if you were in the news division and you were fair,” said Adam Housley, who left his role as a senior correspondent in summer 2018 after 16 years at the network.
For those leaving Fox News but looking to stay in conservative-leaning media, Newsmax has emerged as a destination — though it cannot match the high salaries paid by the massively profitable network. (Rob Schmitt, who anchored the extremely early “Fox & Friends First” show on the network, recently joined Newsmax to launch a new show at 10 p.m.)
There’s also One America News Network, though it’s seen by Fox News veterans as a significant step down from the No. 1 channel in cable news.
Jonathan Klein, who was the president of CNN’s U.S. network between 2004 and 2010, said it can be hard for Fox News personalities to make the jump to a new network for reasons of both style and substance.
“Not everyone resonates as well,” he said. “In evaluating talent coming out of Fox News, you always have to ask yourself, ‘How is this going to feel in a more neutral setting and in a less fevered environment?’ ”
Klein said that during his time running CNN he talked to a bunch of anchors and reporters who wanted to leave Fox News and “go mainstream” — it’s the lower-profile journalists, he said, who have the best chance of establishing themselves elsewhere.
“Most of them are either too afraid to try, or they begin to drink the Kool-Aid,” he said. “Or they understand that their brand has permanently identified with their Fox tone of voice.”
Housley, who said he departed Fox “on good terms,” left behind the TV news business entirely to work at his family’s winery in California’s Napa Valley.
“The industry’s changed,” he said, recalling his years as a globe-trotting reporter over the phone to The Washington Post as he simultaneously greeted customers and kept tabs on his young son nearby. “I was lucky to be there during the heyday.”
10:40 a.m.: This story has been updated to note Eboni Williams’s new role on “The Real Housewives of New York.”