By David Bauder
NEW YORK (AP) — To Elisabeth Hasselbeck, the “Fox & Friends” morning show felt like home long before she actually got to work there.
It was regular viewing at home for Hasselbeck, whose 10 years on “The View” ended in July. She’ll debut as Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade’s new partner on “Fox & Friends” Monday, after the departing Gretchen Carlson offered farewells Friday.
“I’d almost make the analogy that it’s being called up to play for one of your favorite teams in the major leagues,” said Hasselbeck, whose opening week will include a series of reports with the cast of “Duck Dynasty.”
Although its viewership is typically less than a quarter of leading broadcast morning show “Good Morning America,” “Fox & Friends” thoroughly dominates cable. It is averaging 1.1 million viewers a day this year, the Nielsen company said. MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” is at 392,000. CNN’s “New Day” has averaged 308,000 viewers since its launch in the spring, enabling the network to slip past “Morning Express” on sister network HLN (249,000).
Carlson, a former Miss America, will get her own show on Fox’s afternoon lineup.
She was serenaded by Gloria Estefan on her final day at “F&F” Friday, and watched a clip reel of past exploits: skipping rope, shooting basketballs, doing pushups, singing a Christmas carol and sharply questioning Robert Gibbs.
As Hasselbeck rehearsed for her new job last week, Fox News executive Bill Shine jokingly called her a “survivor.” He wasn’t referring to her time spent on a tropical island with Jeff Probst.
Her conservative viewpoints often left her alone among her co-hosts on “The View,” or the subject of barbs from the also-departed Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg. Hasselbeck said everybody has challenging days on the job, whether they’re in broadcasting, medicine or education.
If they haven’t had challenging days, “there hasn’t been that growth moment,” she said. “I’ve had the privilege of having a lot of growth during those 10 years, let’s just say that.”
On her last day in July, Hasselbeck was magnanimous, particularly to “The View” creator Barbara Walters and Goldberg, but clear-eyed. She left the day after her hiring at Fox was announced.
Whether she jumped or was pushed is still murky. Us Weekly reported on May 8 that Hasselbeck was being “ousted” from “The View,” which the show denied. Shine said he’s long admired Hasselbeck, and said her move was triggered by running into Hasselbeck’s agent at a launch party for the Fox Sports 1 cable network, which took place March 5. Shine said he followed up a few days later by calling the agent and asking if Hasselbeck would be interested in working at Fox.
“She’s very smart. She’s very outgoing,” said Shine, Fox’s executive vice president for programming. “She’s a great on-air talent, a great personality and I think that will do very well for her in the morning.”
Hasselbeck said she didn’t want to talk about her departure from “The View.”
Her views will be much more at home on “Fox & Friends.” She said the show is No. 1 in the cable ratings for a reason.
“You have an entertainment, wake-up show that delivers important information but also meaningful conversation with content that’s able to be viewed by your entire family,” said Hasselbeck, a mother of three.
She talked about other shows not always being suited for families but did not specify which ones. “I can’t speak for the other shows because I’m not watching them,” she said.
Hasselbeck said she had appeared several times on Fox to talk about pastry (she’s written two cookbooks) and politics, among other topics.
“I am privileged to call myself a team member,” she said, “but I have felt like family there for a long time.”
Her immediate challenge is the same as morning show hosts everywhere: making sure she has alarm clocks that work. “Fox & Friends” runs from 6 to 9 a.m. Eastern.
“I definitely trend toward the natural night owl end of the spectrum,” she said. “This has been a physical change for me. I actually think the morning hours are kind of peaceful when you have the house to yourself.”
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