Many TV viewers believe Fox News Channel is defined by “Fox & Friends” and Sean Hannity. But they’re probably not watching what airs in between.
“Special Report With Bret Baier” offers a more balanced review of the day’s events; the show’s host probably is not on Donald Trump’s Christmas-card list.
Despite his low opinion of Baier, the president may very well be watching Wednesday when the anchor and Martha MacCallum moderate a live town hall from Milwaukee with presidential candidate and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
Baier, 48, spoke last week from his New York office about the Democratic National Committee’s decision to not allow Fox to host any of its debates, Trump’s tweets and how Baier feels about his colleagues labeling journalists “enemies of the people.”
Q: How do you go about preparing for one of these town halls?
A: It takes a lot. We have a thing called the “brain room,” which is essentially a group of researchers. We get a big folder from them that gives us a lot of background, transcripts from other town halls they’d done, policy positions. It’s like cramming for a test in college. Our biggest role is generating questions from the audience and then think about how we can redirect questions if the answers are less than responsive.
Q: What do you say to those who believe no Democratic candidate is going to be treated fairly when they go on Fox?
A: Sometimes the loudest critics of Fox are the people who haven’t watched me. I tell those people on Twitter and Facebook to watch me three times and then let me know if I’m being fair. I think you just have to talk to Bernie Sanders. He has said we were very fair to him when we did our town hall in Pennsylvania. I think you can also look at the grilling we’ve given Republicans in the past. I think you can look at the work of Chris Wallace, who is arguably the best debate moderator there is. On the news side of the house, we’re trying to make sure Democrats get a fair shake, but we’re not promising it’s not going to be tough.
Q: You’ve said that you’re optimistic the DNC will change its mind about giving your channel a chance to host debates. Why?
A: I guess I’m more hopeful than optimistic. Look at the number of eyeballs that have tuned in for these events and the sound bites they generate that wind up airing on other networks and running in newspapers. That should open eyes to the power of our reach and I think, over time, that will sink in. More and more Democrats are reaching out to us. Our next town hall will be with Pete Buttigieg. There will be others.
Q: Part of the problem is that Fox’s opinion shows dominate the prime-time lineup. Shouldn’t more of that real estate be given to folks like you and Shepard Smith?
A: We’ve been a great success story from the beginning and I don’t think our leadership wants to tinker with that success.
Q: But it can’t help matters when colleagues like Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson accuse most journalists of trafficking in “fake news.”
A: I think it’s dead wrong and we’ve said that. I think for the most part, journalists are trying to do their job. I’ve made my feelings clear to them. I think those guys do a great job. But quite frankly, I don’t spend my time watching their shows because I’m focused on my program and covering the news.
Q: That approach hasn’t made you a favorite of the president. How does it feel when he criticizes you for having a “smiley face” during the Sanders event and rating you a six out of 10?
A: I may be down to a three or four. I don’t know his exact viewing habits, but I think he consumes a lot of Fox, judging by his tweets. I hope to get another interview with him. It took me 600 days to get the last one. It’s interesting that the president watches. With that comes the good, the bad and the ugly.