On Wednesday, Elisabeth Hasselbeck bid her emotional farewell to The View, the ABC talk show she has co-hosted for a decade. (Watch above.) The night before, Fox News had confirmed swirling rumors that Hasselbeck — the ABC gabfest's reliable conservative — is joining the rival network's morning show, Fox & Friends, in September, replacing Gretchen Carlson.
Fox News chief Roger Ailes is bullish on Hasselbeck's upcoming Fox debut. "Elisabeth's warm and engaging personality made her a star on The View," Ailes said in a statement. "She has proven to be an excellent conversationalist and I am certain she will make a great addition to our already successful morning franchise."
Fox-bashing liberals are generally in agreement. Rebecca Leber at ThinkProgress found five right-wing statements "that show why Elisabeth Hasselbeck will fit right in on Fox & Friends." And at Fox, "Hasselbeck will get to be the top banana," says Josef Adalian at New York, "with co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade likely to serve as an amen corner for whatever attacks she launches at President Obama or Nancy Pelosi."
Even Joy Behar, Hasselbeck's liberal sparring partner on The View, ribbed her departing co-host: "Fox. Gee, won't you be a fish out of water, there?"
But the view that Hasselbeck will thrive at Fox News is not universally held. From outspoken conservative views to "her sharp-eyed blondeness," the former Survivor contestant does seem like a perfect fit for Fox & Friends, says Richard Lawson at The Atlantic Wire. "I'm just not sure she's going to do all that well over there," Lawson says. What made Hasselbeck a star on The View was that she was "nearly always in opposition to the other women on the panel," surrounded, if you will, "by potential enemies."
And she functions really well in that role — if not as a rhetorician, certainly as an entertainer.... She's Elisabeth Hasselbeck, The View's outspoken, put-upon conservative; it's the role she was born to play.... Her talent, if you can call it that, is being the oppressed one, not part of the dopey morning affirmation to the choir. She's going to lose all her potency, again if you can call it that, when everyone around her agrees with her. Where is she going to draw energy and outrage from? [Atlantic Wire]
It's more than just the Hasselback-versus-the-world dynamic that has made The View compelling TV, says Amanda Hess at Slate. "The progressive ladies on the show force her to defend her conservative opinions and, in some cases, reverse them." And even when Hasselback sticks to her guns, "it can be fascinating to watch her explain her thought processes — often, emotionally — to people who don't agree." She may be more comfortable at Fox & Friends, and she may even start spouting out "ever-more wingnutty things." But without her liberal foils, it "won't be as fun to watch."
By joining her ideological peers on cable, Hasselbeck is losing the thing that made her unique and noteworthy, agrees Daniel D'Addario at Salon. "How often have Gretchen Carlson's declarations made it into tabloids, as in the mid-2000s Hasselbeck's were on a nearly weekly basis?" But the big loser in this switch is the conservative movement, which is poaching one of the few "conservative partisans with a daily platform in the so-called lamestream media."
The View was not great television, Daytime Emmys aside, and Hasselbeck was not great on it. But its significance in the Bush era and during the rise of the Tea Party shouldn't be underestimated: It provided conservatives a popular media figure — blond, cute, reality-TV friendly, chatty about her kids and her diet as well as the troop surge — who was able to infiltrate the televisions of the undecided like a Trojan horse. It's unlikely that Hasselbeck will get the opportunity to interview Barack Obama again when she's on Fox News. And it's unlikely that she'll ever be challenged, or challenge anyone. [Salon]
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