Fox News liberal analyst Juan Williams is leaving 'The Five'

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Juan Williams, Greg Gutfeld, Dana Perino, Jesse Watters and Dagan McDowell on "The Five."
Juan Williams, Greg Gutfeld, Dana Perino, Jesse Watters and Dagan McDowell on "The Five." (Fox News)

Juan Williams, the lone liberal voice on the "The Five," announced Wednesday that he is leaving the popular Fox News roundtable program.

Williams, whose final appearance as a regular was on Wednesday, told Fox News that he wanted to remain in Washington, D.C., after learning that the network wanted all members of "The Five" to return to the program's midtown Manhattan studio June 1.

"We are incredibly grateful for his commitment to the show and its success over the last several years," said Megan Albano, Fox News vice president for "The Five" and weekend programming. "As we started planning 'The Five' return to its New York City studio at our headquarters a few months ago, Juan decided to stay in Washington, D.C., permanently. We accommodated his request, understanding and appreciating his desire to remain closer to his family and recognizing that a remote co-hosting role on a roundtable in-studio program was not a long-term option."

Like most of the opinion programs on Fox News, “The Five” has a strong conservative bent. One chair is typically filled by a liberal to generate lively debate.

Since joining the program in 2015, Williams has commuted to New York to do the program alongside Jesse Watters, Dana Perino, Greg Gutfeld and other rotating panelists.

Williams remains under a long-term contract at Fox News as a political analyst based in Washington.

Juan Williams during Fox News coverage of President Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20.
Juan Williams during Fox News coverage of President Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20. (Fox News)

"My work as a Fox News political analyst will continue," Williams said at the end of the program Wednesday. "It's been going on seven years since I've been a daily host of this show, the show's popularity has grown every single year. So thank you so much to you the viewers. Thank you."

No replacement has been named for Williams, but the seat will be filled by another liberal commentator. Harold Ford Jr., a former Democratic U.S. congressman who recently joined the network as a contributor, is expected to be among the fill-ins.

Williams, 67, has been with Fox News since 1997 in various roles before taking over for Democratic political consultant Bob Beckel after he was fired from "The Five."

The former NPR commentator is an Emmy Award-winning journalist and author of the companion book for "Eyes on the Prize," a PBS series about the history of the civil rights movement.

Fox News came to the defense of Williams after he was fired from NPR in 2010 following comments he made on “The O’Reilly Factor.” In a discussion of how terrorism affects perceptions of Muslims, Williams said he was fearful of being on a plane with passengers dressed in Muslim garb.

After the dismissal, Williams was given a three-year contract at Fox News that paid him $2 million a year and made him exclusive to the network, where he has been a fixture ever since.

Williams, who had COVID-19, has been working from his home in Washington over the last year. Before the pandemic, he stayed in New York at least four days a week to do the program, which is based in the Fox News studios in midtown Manhattan.

The program is known for covering political issues in a happy hour-type atmosphere. With the cast working remotely, the show would occasionally get more tense when hosts disagreed.

Williams’ conversations with Gutfeld and Watters became particularly contentious during the Trump White House years, especially after the police killing of George Floyd in 2020.

One reason the network wants the panel back in the studio is to keep the breezy atmosphere.

"The Five" is often the second-most-watched show on Fox News, drawing as many as 3 million viewers daily, according to Nielsen.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.