Amid the turmoil of the Fox News lineup this year, one host has become a go-to in multiple roles for the network: Dana Perino.
The longtime host of “The Five” and President George W. Bush’s last White House press secretary has taken on an increasingly visible roll in a tumultuous period for the network. In the last year, Fox News has lost its lost its founding CEO, one of its marquee names, and a primetime host, while outcry over sexual harassment allegations against its highest-rated star threatens to force him off the air.
On Wednesday, Perino will fill in for embattled host Bill O’Reilly when he goes on vacation amid a mass advertiser boycott over allegations he sexually harassed his coworkers. A network spokesperson told Business Insider Perino is the first of a rotating cast of network personalities set to fill-in for O’Reilly.
The former Bush press secretary has filled in during primetime shows like O’Reilly’s, but she’s also been a more regularly-featured news anchor on the network. Perino anchored “Happening Now” during breaking news coverage of a shooting in San Bernardino on Monday — she began filling in during the 1PM hour last month, and has anchored the show multiple times.
Last month, she also conducted high-profile interviews during “America’s News HQ” with guests like Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Over the past several months, the network has tried Perino in a variety of different analytical and straight-news roles.
Perino was the co-host of the first show the network debuted after former CEO Roger Ailes’ departure last year. The Sunday evening political roundtable show “I’ll Tell You What” was billed as a three-month election special featuring a lighter political roundup without shouting or “score settling.”
It may not be a poor decision for the network to elevate the host. Filling in for Martha MacCallum last Tuesday, Perino garnered slightly higher ratings than two other days last week when MacCallum hosted the “First 100 Days.” One of two days of the week when MacCallum beat Perino, her guest were President Donald Trump’s top counselor Kellyanne Conway.
Perino has hosted “The Five” since the show’s inception — it remains the top performing show in its time slot by a long shot.
It is far from uncommon for former political operatives to transition to television personalities.
“Good Morning America” and “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos was President Bill Clinton’s communications director, while ABC’s Diane Sawyer was once an aide to President Richard Nixon.
CNN regularly retains a stable of former campaign operatives as paid contributors. In addition to his role as a commentator, President Barack Obama’s former political adviser David Axelrod also hosts a successful podcast that has occasionally run on television as a long-form interview.
Perino has made calculated changes over the years as an analyst at Fox, speaking out forcefully when she felt other hosts were misleading viewers.
She raised eyebrows when she told followers that she would “not lie” to fans about Trump’s bleak poll numbers in August, which was seen as a direct rebuke of host Eric Bolling’s argument that the then-nominee’s crowd size was a better indicator of his popularity than Trump’s poll numbers.
In an interview in September, Perino told Business Insider that it would “be difficult to go back” to spinning news, after becoming accustomed to onscreen candor.
Chris Stirewalt, who co-hosted “I’ll Tell You What,” credited Perino’s success at Fox with her willingness to criticise her party, rather than attempt to defend it.
“You can see people who can’t shake it, who have been partisans who try to do TV,” Stirewalt told Business Insider in September. “It stays with them, it’s too hard wired into them.”
“But there are people who have worked in politics in one party or another who have gone on and had successful journalism careers. The prerequisite in each case is intellectual honesty. You just have to be willing to be honest.”
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