Hugh He­witt to host show on MSNBC

The con­ser­va­tive com­men­ta­tor will have a Satur­day morn­ing pro­gram.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS BEAT - By Stephen Battaglio stephen.battaglio @la­times.com

MSNBC is ex­pand­ing its live news pro­gram­ming lineup, in­clud­ing a new Satur­day show hosted by con­ser­va­tive com­men­ta­tor Hugh He­witt.

He­witt, best known as a host for the right-lean­ing Salem Ra­dio Net­work, will have a half-hour Satur­day morn­ing pro­gram air­ing at 8:30 a.m. East­ern. The move is likely to get some gim­leteyed looks from MSNBC view­ers who reg­u­larly flock to the chan­nel for crit­i­cal cov­er­age of Pres­i­dent Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion.

He­witt, who is based in Los Angeles, did not sup­port Trump dur­ing the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion process. Trump called He­witt “a third-rate ra­dio an­nouncer” when he was un­able to han­dle a ter­ror­ism ques­tion He­witt asked dur­ing the 2015 Repub­li­can pri­mary de­bate on CNN.

The ra­dio host also called for Trump to step aside as the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee af­ter the “Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood” tape from 2005, in which Trump is heard mak­ing crude re­marks about grop­ing women.

He­witt told the Los Angeles Times on elec­tion night in 2016 that he re­luc­tantly voted for Trump but, like many pun­dits, was gen­uinely shocked that he de­feated Demo­cratic op­po­nent Hil­lary Clin­ton.

In a state­ment, MSNBC said He­witt’s new pro­gram “will pro­vide in­ter­views and anal­y­sis on the big­gest sto­ries of the week with lead­ing newsmakers and a panel of ex­perts from var­i­ous per­spec­tives.”

The move is the lat­est sign that MSNBC is look­ing to reach a broader au­di­ence by hir­ing per­son­al­i­ties who do not share the po­lit­i­cally lib­eral lean­ings of its prime­time lineup of Rachel Mad­dow, Chris Hayes and Lawrence O’Don­nell.

Ni­colle Wal­lace, who re­cently took over the 4 p.m. East­ern hour on MSNBC, is a for­mer Repub­li­can op­er­a­tive who worked in Ge­orge W. Bush’s ad­min­is­tra­tion. Greta Van Sus­teren, who joined MSNBC with a nightly pro­gram in Jan­uary, is not an ide­o­log­i­cal host, but she did work at the rightlean­ing Fox News Chan­nel for 14 years.

In 2015, MSNBC dropped the brand imag­ing that po­si­tioned the chan­nel as a po­lit­i­cally pro­gres­sive news source — its tagline was “Lean For­ward.” Two of the chan­nel’s most lib­eral hosts — Joy Reid and the Rev. Al Sharp­ton — were moved to the week­end af­ter hav­ing daily pro­grams. Alex Wag­ner, now at CBS, left the net­work.

While MSNBC has de­voted more of its day­time hours to break­ing news, its best rat­ings are still be­ing drawn by its left-lean­ing hosts in the evening, most no­tably Mad­dow, who on many nights has the largest au­di­ence of any prime-time cable host. MSNBC’s au­di­ence in May grew by 92% over the same month in 2016.

Be­sides adding He­witt, MSNBC is ex­pand­ing its live news cov­er­age to 9 p.m. on the week­ends with Thomas Roberts as an­chor. Most of the week­end prime-time lineup had been filled with taped pro­gram­ming, mostly episodes of “Lockup,” the doc­u­men­tary series about the pe­nal sys­tem.

Kirk Ir­win Getty Images

HUGH HE­WITT re­luc­tantly voted for Don­ald Trump for pres­i­dent.

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