Former Alaska governor and professional maverick Sarah Palin will be returning to Fox News as on-air contributor, the network announced today.
“I’ve had several conversations with Governor Palin in the past few weeks about her rejoining FOX News as a contributor,” said Fox News CEO Roger Ailes in a statement. “I have great confidence in her and am pleased that she will once again add her commentary to our programming. I hope she continues to speak her mind.”
Ailes’s confidence in Palin’s TV talent has proven to be a tad misplaced in the past. She was a contributor to the network for three years after her surprise resignation as governor of Alaska in 2009, but was by many accounts an unsteady television presence. Her reality show, Sarah Palin’s Alaska, on TLC, was a critical and commercial flop, and her Fox series, Real American Stories, was panned by critics, with a Los Angeles Times reviewer writing that "As a host, Palin brings little besides her name and all that it has come to mean. Despite her time on the campaign trail and in front of often-unfriendly cameras, Palin still has an eyes-locked-on-the-teleprompter stiffness."
Joe Muto, a former Fox News employee who was fired after he anonymously blogged on Gawker about what it was like to work at the network, and who dished about the inner workings of the network in his new book, Atheist in the Foxhole, described mounting frustration at Fox with the former governor—this, despite Palin being treated as a rock star when she first arrived at company headquarters.
“It started going awry for Sarah Palin at Fox almost immediately. She wasn’t willing to do the work. And they made it easy for her. They built a studio for her in house in Alaska, so all she had to do was slap on some makeup and go sit in front of the camera,” Muto told The Daily Beast. “She would still show up late, unprepared, hadn’t even bothered to study what the topic was and would completely whiff it on the air.”
At times, Ailes has acknowledged her shortcomings, telling an Associated Press reporter in 2011, “I hired Sarah Palin because she was hot and got ratings.”
Palin responded in kind. When she decided not to run for president in 2012, she did not make the announcement on Fox but instead read a letter aloud on conservative radio host Mark Levin’s program. She took to Facebook to vent when Fox News cancelled her interview of John McCain during the 2012 convention.
Although Palin has a devoted following in some conservative corners of the country—witness the loud cheers she received when she slurped from a Big Gulp on stage at the Conservative Political Action Committee annual meeting this year, in a rebuke to Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s large-soda ban—others in the Republican Party have been urging the faithful to move away from Palin’s brand of emotional, scorched-earth politics. She is not considered a likely contender for the 2016 presidential nomination, even though she continues to be a key endorser in GOP primaries.
Palin will appear on Fox’s daytime and primetime programming, according to the network, starting with an appearance on FOX & Friends on Monday, June 17. She will also contribute to FOX Business Network.
In a statement, Palin gushed about the network and her new role: "The power of FOX News is unparalleled. The role of FOX News in the important debates in our world is indispensable,” she said. “I am pleased and proud to be rejoining Roger Ailes and the great people at FOX."