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Why Did Juan Williams Leave The Five?

"The Five" is often the most-watched program airing on cable news, despite not airing during primetime (via Fox News). This is despite the fact that so many of the co-hosts on the roundtable talk show have rotated out over the years. Some longtime faces always remain, like former "Red Eye" host Greg Gutfeld and "America's Newsroom" co-anchor Dana Perino, but many longtime panelists have exited their roles for various reasons. 

Some have left under clouds of controversy, like current Newsmax host Eric Bolling, who left after a suspension in 2017 due to sexual harassment allegations, allegations he denied (per The Hollywood Reporter). Many from the show have also found success with it, though, earning their own new programs after taking some time to hash out the latest political and pop culture stories in the roundtable discussions, like Gutfeld, who got the extra gig hosting the Fox News late-night comedy talk show "Gutfeld!" in 2021 (via LA Times).

One face most fans or even casual viewers will likely remember from the show who is no longer around is Juan Williams, often the lone liberal voice among the gaggle of Republicans and libertarians, making many moments of his go viral, especially when it came to debates about Donald Trump. Despite being an outlier, Williams was there as an original panelist in 2011, so what made one of the seemingly defining voices of the debate program leave?

Williams left The Five because of COVID-19

After years with "The Five," Williams ultimately decided to part ways due to the virus that disrupted all of our lives in one way or another: COVID-19. In May 2021, Williams announced to viewers that he would be leaving after a decade with the daytime talk show. 

"It's time now for One More Thing, and I have an announcement. This is my last day hosting 'The Five.' COVID taught me a lot of lessons. As the show goes back to the New York studio, I'll be staying in D.C.," he said. This was right before "The Five" returned to filming in their New York studio (per USA Today).

Williams thanked viewers of "The Five" for the popularity of the show before leaving. "It's been going on seven years since I have been a daily host of this show. The show's popularity has grown every single year, So thank you. Thank you so much, to you, the viewers," he said.

Williams, a cancer survivor, had COVID in December 2020. Writing about his experience with the virus, he said he had to isolate in a hotel room for a time to avoid spreading COVID to his wife, an emotional experience that included waking up in pools of sweat and suffering from extreme fatigue (per The Hill).

The good news is Williams remained a contributor to Fox News despite leaving "The Five," so viewers could still catch him on the network.

Who replaced Juan Williams?

There were big shoes to fill after Williams' departure because he was such a unique presence on the right-leaning talk show. In January 2022, Fox News announced that a rotation of guests would be filling Williams' liberal seat at the table, which included former Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-TN), political strategist Jessica Tarlov, and longtime TV news staple Geraldo Rivera (via Deadline), who has a unique influence on the origins of "COPS" and now hosts Fox Nation's "COPS: All Access." 

It says a lot that just one replacement for Williams was not good enough. Megan Albano, vice president of "The Five" and Fox News weekend primetime programming, acknowledged the network was grateful to Williams and understood his decision to remain in Washington D.C. to spend more time with family rather than make the constant commute.

"We are incredibly grateful for his commitment to the show and its success over the last several years. 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," Albano said (per LA Times).