For the second time in less than a year, anchor Greta Van Susteren has been abruptly let go by a cable news network.
Van Susteren confirmed her departure from MSNBC, 5 1/2 months into the job, with a post on Twitter that read “I am out at MSNBC.” Her husband and agent, John P. Coale, said she was informed of the news Thursday afternoon.
I am out at MSNBC –
— Greta Van Susteren (@greta) June 29, 2017
Van Susteren, who took over the 6 p.m. hour for MSNBC in January, had been let go from Fox News last year after a messenger arrived at her home and handed her a pair of letters informing her that she was out immediately. Coale said the MSNBC president, Phil Griffin, informed Van Susteren in person in Washington around lunchtime Thursday.
“They didn’t want her anymore,” Coale said in a telephone interview. “We’re in kind of shock.”
Though Coale said there was “no warning” that she was in trouble before her dismissal, her show had been struggling in the ratings.
In June, MSNBC’s 5 p.m. hour, “MTP Daily,” averaged 1.3 million viewers. Those numbers dropped during Van Susteren’s 6 p.m. hour, which is usually when viewership starts to rise as cable networks inch closer to the highest viewed hours of prime time.
Van Susteren averaged 1 million viewers in June, an 18 percent drop from the previous hour, according to Nielsen. The network’s evening lineup began to recover by the time Chris Matthews’ “Hardball” came on the air at 7 p.m., with a 58 percent jump over the 6 p.m. hour.
Ratings are no small matter to MSNBC these days. Since Fox parted ways with Bill O’Reilly in April, there has been a genuine ratings race for the first time in years. MSNBC has been fighting — and sometimes beating — Fox News in weeknight prime-time ratings in the 25-54-year-old demographic important to advertisers. At the beginning of the year, that was an unthinkable prospect.
It was always an open question whether Van Susteren, a mainstay of Fox News’ evening lineup of conservative programming, would be embraced by MSNBC’s liberal audience.
Even with Van Susteren’s departure, MSNBC is not stepping away from conservative voices. Nicolle Wallace, who once worked for President George W. Bush, hosts the network’s 4 p.m. hour, and conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt has been given a show on Saturday mornings at 8 a.m. The network also recently signed columnists George Will and Bret Stephens as contributors. Stephens writes for The New York Times.
In a memo to the staff, Griffin said MSNBC’s legal correspondent, Ari Melber, would permanently replace Van Susteren at 6 p.m. starting next month. On Thursday, Ali Velshi replaced her.