Fox News Channel’s Bret Baier is celebrating his 12th wedding anniversary far from home. Baier, chief political anchor and host of Special Report, is on the campus of Washington University preparing to co-anchor FNC’s debate-night coverage, which is where we caught up with him.
Baier has been with Fox News for 18 of its 20 years, starting as an Atlanta-based correspondent “in my apartment with a fax machine and a cell phone,” he said. “It’s been quite a journey!”
While it’s been a big year in ratings and ad sales, it’s also been a tumultuous one for Fox News with the stunning departure of co-founder and CEO Roger Ailes in July, and, just last week, a very public spat between two of Fox’s other hosts: Megyn Kelly and Sean Hannity. “I saw a Tweet between Megyn and Sean, and it looks like everything’s good to go,” Baier said. “I haven’t seen anything internally that affects our product. We’ve had blinders on, covering this historic election,” Baier said.
TVNewser: When [the Ailes situation unfolded] FNC had to do the awkward thing – which no news organization wants to – which is to report on yourself. How did you think you guys did?
Baier: I think we did it well. It was tough. My first reaction was sadness. Because it was like mourning Roger, the Roger that I knew. And I was really sad for the women involved. I spoke out when asked about my personal experiences – and he was always decent to me and my family – and that’s what I was speaking from when asked about it at the beginning. But when all the details came out, that sadness kind of turned to anger. I was angry. I mean, this should not have happened, period. I’m hoping that all of that’s behind us.
TVNewser: Your show, Special Report, continues to be highly-rated, and you have a dedicated fan base. What is the ‘special sauce’ to the program’s success? Why do people watch?
Baier: I don’t think it’s me. I think it is the product we put on. I took over from my mentor and friend, Brit Hume, and he built an amazing show. And then we kind of built on top of that…He told me one piece of advice when I took over, and that was, don’t let it be about you, it’s about the correspondents, who are generating the news. It’s about the news. And to this day, that’s what drives the show.
TVNewser: Your colleague Chris Wallace will moderate the third presidential debate on October 19. Are you helping him prepare?
Baier: No, I’ve talked with him, I’ve encouraged him. I’m going to anchor Fox News Sunday out in ‘Vegas [on debate day] while he gets ready for the big night. And that Sunday, when we do a “Power Player,” I did a long interview with Chris about his preparations. He’s going to be great. It was touching to me that he feels this real sense of pride, and thinks that his dad [the late CBS newsman Mike Wallace] would be smiling down on him about this. I’m proud of him, we are proud of him – he’s obviously the first Fox News person to get a general election debate, and we know he’s going to kill it!
TVNewser: What’s in store for you in the future professionally?
Baier: I love the place where I am, I love what I’m doing, and covering politics at a time when people are really focused on politics is really fun. I’d like to do more long-form. I’ve done I think 42 hour-long specials at Fox, and I’ve got another couple coming up this fall [one on the military, and one on President Dwight Eisenhower]. It enables you to really dig deep into one issue.
TVNewser: And what do you see for the future of Fox News? There is buzz about changes that could come after the election?
Baier: It’s above my pay grade! Internally, Rupert Murdoch has really dug in, and he’s a news guy – and [co-presidents] Bill Shine and Jack Abernethy we know forever – and so I think the morale has been, it’s a good atmosphere. A better atmosphere as far as communication with the top floor. But from everything that I’ve heard from Rupert and the powers-that-be, that they have big plans for expanding the news division, making a new newsroom, doing all kinds of high-tech stuff. It’s going to be an exciting time.
[This interview has been edited for length and clarity]
(Photos: Alissa Krinsky)