3,500 Shows Later, Greta Van Susteren Is Just Getting Started

By Chris Ariens 

Fox News host Greta Van Susteren celebrates her 3,500th On the Record tonight. Van Susteren is the longest-continuing cable news anchor, having co-hosted CNN’s Burden of Proof from 1994-2002. FNC chairman Roger Ailes recruited Van Susteren to Fox News where she began hosting On the Record on Feb. 4, 2002.

Following the milestone episode, Greta will be live streaming on Facebook and answering viewer questions. She’s also sharing some of her favorite moments on social media using #Greta3500. We caught up with Van Susteren earlier this week and asked 5 questions about the news business and her favorite NFL team.

TVNewser: What’s been your favorite interview of the last 3,500 shows?

Van Susteren: Favorite? There are so many favorites that I can’t answer that question. I have interviewed people from coast to coast in the USA, from all walks of life, from Sudan, Iraq, North Korea, Haiti, all over the world. I love meeting people and talking to them — they all fascinate me so I can’t isolate a favorite because I have loved them all. It’s possible that my favorite interview might be yet to come, but that seems almost inconceivable because I’ve already had so much fun in the course of these 3,500 shows.

TVNewser: Does being a lawyer, in which arguing is a necessary quality, make a good cable news host?

Van Susteren: Arguing? I learned to argue growing up with older siblings. It was survival. I should point out that being a lawyer does help me know the difference between fact and opinion and it soured me on the overuse of anonymous sources. In law school at Georgetown I studied Evidence (which specifically teaches fact v. opinion v. hearsay) and I returned later to Georgetown to teach Evidence.

TVNewser: When did you know you wanted to have your own cable news show?

Van Susteren: I never knew I wanted a cable news show. Lawyers didn’t have cable news shows. Roger Cossack and I were the first (at CNN’s Burden of Proof). Before cable news, I was happy practicing law and never dreamed I would be on TV. I think of myself as the ‘accidental anchor’ as I just fell into the job. CNN called me to do some legal analysis for the William Kennedy Smith trial and I essentially never left cable news  O.J. Simpson was so popular with viewers that CNN decided to create a legal show when it concluded, much like ABC created Nightline from the Iranian hostage story of 1979. I was thinking of going back to practicing law when I met Roger Ailes and I agreed to come to Fox News essentially on a handshake. I thought it would be a fun and an exciting adventure and, yup, I was right! It has been exciting.

TVNewser: You were an early adopter of engaging with your audience, first on GretaWire, now on social media. How do you determine when to engage, and when not to engage with a commenter?

GretaCheeseheadVan Susteren: There is no formula – I just like to engage with the viewers and my engagement is random. Maybe it is the cheesehead in me? I like the viewers – even when their comments rip my skin off. I find viewers’ ideas and thoughts interesting and sometimes even educational. With TV, you speak AT a camera and while I love my job, it really is more fun to interact which I can do with social media. But this might surprise you, I have been doing social media so long, that I feel like many of the people on GretaWire are my friends. I know when they are sick, when their pets die, when they graduate from college etc. I guess we are modern day pen pals.

TVNewser: Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers, who’s the better Green Bay Packer quarterback? (Let’s throw Lynn Dickey in there too.)

Van Susteren: Brett Favre. He is the Cal Ripken of football. I don’t think we will ever see a QB who is as tough, and plays as many games as Brett Favre, and I think he played all his games before the rules to protect the QB’s which is also very significant. He dazzled Packer fans for years!