The radio host who became Fox News’ liberal voice
Alan Colmes 1950–2017
Alan Colmes was a liberal in the lion’s den of Fox News. From the conservative-leaning channel’s debut in 1996 until his departure in 2008, the affable and witty commentator played foil to conservative firebrand Sean Hannity on Hannity & Colmes. Their odd-couple pairing worked: Garnering consistently high ratings, it was Fox’s longest-running prime-time show. Many on the left dismissed Colmes as a patsy for the pugnacious Hannity; comedian Al Franken, now a Democratic senator, skewered him in 2003 as a “moderate milquetoast.” But Colmes made no apologies. “People say to me, ‘Why don’t you fight fire with fire?’” he said. “You fight fire with water.”
Born in Brooklyn to parents who ran jewelry stores, Colmes “grew up listening to the late-night radio hosts Long John Nebel and Barry Gray,” said The New York Times. He began his radio career in high school as a DJ and later ventured into professional talk radio, broadcasting from Long Island, Boston, and New York City. When Fox News launched a new show tentatively titled Hannity & Liberal to Be Determined, Colmes auditioned and got the job.
Colmes argued that he was at a disadvantage on TV, “a venue that often favors oratorical aggression,” said The Washington Post. To some liberals, his mere presence on Fox was a kind of betrayal— as Colmes put it, nothing “short of storming off the set in a rage will get them to respect that I work there.” Despite their ideological differences, he and Hannity remained close friends. When he left the show, Colmes quipped that he was “proud that both Sean and I remained unharmed after sitting side by side, night after night for so many years.”