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Conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt gets a show in MSNBC's weekend expansion

Conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt gets a show in MSNBC's weekend expansion
Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt appearing on MSNBC where he will have a new Saturday morning show. (MSNBC)

MSNBC is expanding its live news programming lineup, including a new Saturday show hosted by conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt.

Hewitt, best known as a host for the right-leaning Salem Radio Network, will have a half-hour Saturday morning program airing at 8 a.m. Eastern. The move is likely to get some gimlet-eyed looks from MSNBC viewers who regularly flock to the channel for critical coverage of President Trump's administration.

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Hewitt, who is based in Los Angeles, did not support Trump during the Republican nomination process. Trump called Hewitt "a third-rate radio announcer" when he was unable to handle a terrorism question Hewitt asked during the 2015 Republican primary debate on CNN.

The radio host also called for Trump to step aside as the Republican presidential nominee after the "Access Hollywood" tape from 2005, in which Trump is heard making crude remarks about groping women.

Hewitt told the Los Angeles Times on election night in 2016 that he reluctantly voted for Trump but, like many pundits, was genuinely shocked that he defeated Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

In a statement, MSNBC said Hewitt's new program "will provide interviews and analysis on the biggest stories of the week with leading newsmakers and a panel of experts from various perspectives."

The move is the latest sign that MSNBC is looking to reach a broader audience by hiring personalities who do not share the politically liberal leanings of its prime time line-up of Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes and Lawrence O'Donnell.

Nicolle Wallace, who recently took over the 4 p.m. Eastern hour on MSNBC, is a former Republican operative who worked in George W. Bush's administration. Greta Van Susteren, who joined MSNBC with a nightly program in January, is not an ideological host, but she did work at the right-leaning Fox News Channel for 14 years.

In 2015, MSNBC dropped the brand imaging that positioned the channel as a politically progressive news source — its tagline was "Lean Forward." Two of the channel's most liberal hosts — Joy Reid and the Rev. Al Sharpton — were moved to the weekend after having daily programs. Alex Wagner, now at CBS, left the network.

While MSNBC has devoted more of its daytime hours to breaking news, its best ratings are still being drawn by its left-leaning hosts in the evening, most notably Maddow, who on many nights has the largest audience of any prime-time cable host. MSNBC's audience in May grew by 92% over the same month in 2016.

Along with the addition of Hewitt, MSNBC is expanding its live news coverage to 9 p.m. on the weekends with Thomas Roberts as anchor. Most of the weekend prime-time lineup had been filled with taped programming, mostly episodes of "Lockup," the documentary series about the penal system.

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio

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