The 8 Biggest Weirdos Who Have Ever Appeared on Fox News
Fox News has a spectrum of personalities ranging from the generally respectable (Shep Smith) to the table-pounding ridiculous (everyone else). But to fill 24 hours a day of fearmongering television, you need a bench. Over the years Roger Ailes & company have called upon an amazing cast of stringers, hitting D-list movie stars, former comedians, has-been journalists, and doomsday hustlers to fill airtime. Here are some of the weirdest.
1. Glenn Beck
Glenn Beck has seeped into the public consciousness, so we’ve become habituated to his cartoonishness. But however much he may intone about the end days and claim, unconvincingly, to have reformed, he’s still the man who once scribbled looping interconnected conspiracy theories about Obama and long-dead socialists and the looming caliphate on giant prop chalkboards and then wept in despair. In fact, Glenn Beck has a special place in the history and development of Roger Ailes’ network: he may go down as the man who forced Fox to find its limits. With falling ratings and comments venturing ever further from what even Fox viewers considered rational, the network cut ties with Beck. He is now free to track the caliphate on his own blackboard.
2. Victoria Jackson
Once a cast member of Saturday Night Live, the spangly-haired comedienne reinvented herself as a Tea Party activist after Obama’s 2008 election. Not that Jackson had any particular political beliefs, or political knowledge, or cause, or anything else. Rather, it was Obama and Hillary Clinton’s “communism” that finally got her motivated to fight the man. As she told Sean Hannity, "I've never been involved in politics. 'Cuz it's just neh neh neh, neh neh neh. But all of a sudden it was, it was: oh, Hillary Clinton is a socialist, she wants to socialize medicine. Well, I'll have to vote against her. And then all of a sudden a communist appears! Out of nowhere! And that's when I started to get involved.”
From there it was just a short hop to the Fox News shows. Jackson later reiterated the “communist” label to Fox & Friends’ Steve Doocy. The normally game morning host refuted her, affirming, “Now, he is not a communist.” (Fellow Fox anchor Bill O’Reilly had previously called her out on this.) If Doocy really believed that, however, he should have told his then-colleague; Jackson added that she’d learned about Obama’s communism from — wait for it — Glenn Beck.
3. Kevin Sorbo
There’s nothing Fox News loves more than a conservative film actor. Long believing that Hollywood is an agent of the DNC bent on poisoning popular culture with its liberal agendas, Fox prizes the existence of the rare Hollywood Republicans, who appear as rebels against the all-powerful liberal cultural complex while simultaneously lending a bit of celebrity glamor to the news studios. (Just this morning Fox & Friends featured Dean Cain complaining about atheists.) Sorbo is game as can be for this role. If Fox News wants an actor to call Benghazi “a huge scandal” — and criticize more actors for not doing so — Sorbo is there to do it. If Fox News wants someone to blame the NFL’s sluggish action over Ray Rice on Obama’s bad role modeling, Sorbo is there to do it. It doesn’t hurt that he blames his lack of acting work on liberals oppressing him for his views, which is exactly the sort of victimization of the downtrodden right-wing Fox wants to hear.
4. Gene Simmons
The Kiss bassist is a very particular kind of Fox News guest: he has a name brand and general conservative inclination but no real area of expertise, if expertise is even the right word, Simmons appears occasionally on the network and talks about… whatever is on his mind or in the news or mentioned to him directly before he went on air. So you get Gene Simmons on female dependency. You get Gene Simmons on Tim Tebow. You get Gene Simmons on Ebola. Gene Simmons on the Washington Football Team. On Donald Sterling. On Israel and Palestine. And, of course, on the American education system. Does Simmons have opinions on these issues? He sure does! Are those opinions any better or wiser or more incisive than anybody else’s? They sure aren’t.
5. Ben Stein
The Ferris Bueller’s Day Off actor has now been a right-wing talking point machine longer than he’s been a film star, but he still appears incongruous on the Fox sets, ladling out conservative economic pieties and knee-jerk Obama insults as the segments demand. Just three weeks ago he had his biggest hit in years, declaring, “This president is the most racist president there has ever been in America. He is purposely trying to use race to divide Americans.” (Some objected that the dozen executive office holders who owned slaves might vie for that title.) But the most telling moment may be when Stein went against the Fox line, stunning Fox & Friends a couple years back by telling them that taxes were too low for a long-term sustainable budget. As Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf pointed out, this was a complete 180 from Stein’s previously held opinion that you’d have to pry a tax increase from his cold dead hands. But that was the Stein who wanted to get booked on Fox. Safely ensconced as a contributor, Stein later felt empowered to note the federal government’s budget can’t be balanced without raising taxes.
6. Tucker Carlson
Once a respected journalist, Tucker Carlson began a long, bow-tied cable news slide that has ended ignobly with Fox & Friends Weekend. Carlson haters are fond of the moment he fell asleep on national television (make your own tuckered out jokes), but for one of the most uncomfortable moments in modern cable television history, check out the time he tried to get Chris Wallace to declare Barack Obama a race baiter. Wallace, still a respected journalist, looked at Carlson like he was the comments section, and then continued with his report. That had to hurt.
7. Keith Ablow
Fox’s in-house psychological “expert” has had many fine moments; the most famous being his oft-repeated theory that Barack Obama hates America and intentionally enacts disastrous policies to punish the nation. Just recently he called for an “American jihad,” in which the U.S. would wage aggressive military action against other countries, and even actively infiltrate foreign societies, in order to impose our belief system, just as the radical Islamists supposedly do to the West. But Ablow is never more interesting than when his psychological training causes him to go against the Fox party line. See, for instance, when he suddenly becomes enamored of the nanny state, or touts the power of litigation, both of which, if uttered in other contexts, would cause the normal Fox News guest to lament the downfall of our nation.
8. Donald Trump
The weirdest of the pack has to be the Donald. Like Gene Simmons, Trump has no particular area of expertise — he seems to constantly limn the political arena without learning anything useful about it, and his purported wheelhouse is finance, at which he is historically bad. But there he is every Monday morning, talking to Fox and Friends about anything and everything that happens to have gotten his goat that day.
Trump has become such a mainstay in popular culture it’s easy to forget he has no actual business discussing matters of import on television. Why, for instance, would you bring Donald Trump on to discuss recently released Taliban prisoner Bowe Bergdahl? Why would you have Trump on to discuss Ebola? Trump has such command at 1211 Avenue of the Americas that they even let him make baseless accusations against his personal enemies, as when he called New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman a cokehead. If the Fox hosts shrugged when Trump said this, so did all the viewers, wondering why this man was on their television.