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Fox News taps Jesse Watters to succeed ousted host Tucker Carlson in key prime-time hour

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Jesse Watters, a Fox News host who rose from production assistant to one of the conservative cable network’s biggest stars, will take over the 8 pm programming time slot vacated by Tucker Carlson, the company announced Monday.

In a statement, Fox News confirmed other changes for the network’s prime-time lineup: Laura Ingraham’s show will kick off evenings at 7 pm ET, Sean Hannity will remain in the 9 pm ET slot and Greg Gutfeld’s late-night broadcast will move to 10 pm ET.

“Fox News Channel has been America’s destination for news and analysis for more than 21 years and we are thrilled to debut a new lineup,” Suzanne Scott, the network’s CEO, said.

Carlson’s exit from the network in late April led to a ratings drop in the crucial 8 pm hour, putting pressure on executives to find a replacement who could draw a robust and loyal audience.

Watters is currently the host of the opinion show “Jesse Watters Primetime,” which airs at 7 pm and has garnered an average of 2.6 million viewers since the start of the year, according to the network. He is also a regular panelist on “The Five,” one of the network’s most popular programs.

In recent years, Watters established himself as one of Fox’s most strident conservative culture warriors and a loyal defender of former President Donald Trump.

Watters has also drawn intense controversy over incendiary comments and on-air behavior.

In late 2021, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Watters should be fired for using the phrase “kill shot” in a speech calling on young conservative activists to confront the public health leader with tough questions. Fox insisted Watters’ words had been taken out of context.

In 2016, Watters conducted a series of interviews with Asian American people in New York City’s Chinatown that critics found racist. In response, elected officials and activists protested outside the network’s headquarters. “I regret if anyone found offense,” Watters tweeted.

Watters got his start as a Fox News production assistant in 2002, when he was fresh out of college. He built a following on the network with ambush-style man-on-the-street interviews that many critics found hostile and abrasive.

Fox News said on April 24 it was parting ways with Carlson, the network’s most popular prime-time host and a leading voice in the modern conservative movement known for his right-wing views and conspiratorial rhetoric. He has since launched a new show on Twitter.

The network announced the stunning news days after it agreed to pay nearly $800 million to Dominion Voting Systems to avert a high-stakes defamation trial that had cast a shadow over the future of the network.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com