Patricia Sheridan's Breakfast With ... Bret Baier
As anchor of Fox News Channel's "Special Report with Bret Baier" the 40-year-old is enjoying success. The program is the No. 1 cable news show in its time slot. Former Chief White House correspondent and Pentagon reporter for Fox, Mr. Baier took over the anchor desk from Brit Hume in 2009. His career began in North Carolina, then he made the move to Fox in Atlanta and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to Washington, D.C. He is looking forward to the fall elections. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.
I watched your appearance on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart." Very entertaining. Did you get to see it?
[Laughing] I did watch it. You know they edited down a great deal to what was put on air. Some of the interesting back and forth I think they moved to the online, but eventually I watched the whole thing.
Did you think it was fair, the way it was edited? Were you happy with it?
You know, you always go back and say, "Man, I wish I had said something different," or a different way, but clearly Jon had his point of view going in. I'll tell you this, the pre-interview for that interview, the producers were telling me how he was really interested in my trip to Afghanistan. I had just been there, my 12th time, and my thoughts on Libya and how the war is going. So I said during the pre-interview, "I'm, sure there's going to be a lot of talk about Fox News Channel." And she said, "Oh, yeah, yeah." It ended up being pretty much that is all he wanted to do. But listen, I thought it was fine. It wasn't painful, and my friends watch that show a lot, so I think it worked out fine.
You pride yourself on being down the middle in your reporting, but do you think President Obama was justified in saying Fox was not being fair in the reporting regarding him?
I think people know the difference between the opinion programs on Fox and the news programs on Fox. Even during the darkest hours of whatever you're gonna call the White House strategy back then of bringing up Fox and talking about Fox, we were still covering the White House and had questions answered and had access to folks that we needed to have access to in order to provide a balanced product.
So whether he was justified or not? I don't know what was behind the White House move back then. I can tell you that they are reaching out a lot more now. I think [you have to] acknowledge the value of viewership that is No. 1 in cable with the most broad ideological split of any viewers on any cable channel.
It's difficult to get politicians, Democrat or Republican, to actually answer a question. How do you walk the line between respect for the person, or the office, and the job you are trying to do?
It's tough, and sometimes it can be very tough. The situation with President Obama's interview was fairly unique in that we were three days ahead of the House voting on this historic health-care legislation. Arguably, a lot of lawmakers and many people in Washington didn't really know what was in this 2,000-page bill. We were trying to get answers ahead of this big vote, and we had 15 minutes. You have to press, you have to push but also be respectful.
I imagine it feels a bit awkward.
It does for sure. It's not the best feeling in the world having to do that, but I do think in order to get answers to questions that a lot of people were asking, that were not being answered in the public domain, sometimes it takes that.
With so many pundits pushing their agendas on cable news and radio, do you think most Americans are just choosing to listen to the guys who confirm what they already think?
I hope not. I mean, I think the news is flowing so fast now. There are so many things happening. In my show, at the meeting every day, we talk about it like it's drinking from a fire hose because it's non-stop.
When you are dealing with that level of big items and intricate items like pieces of legislation that affect every American that are being voted on just around the block from where I'm seating, that requires a lot of digging in and providing both sides.
When major news events happen, don't you think people ultimately go to the channel or network they always have?
Sure, I think that's true. Big events get big, big numbers for people tuning in. Hopefully, you've built with what you done on air for years a trust with the viewership that they can tune in and say, "This is somebody I trust to deliver the news."
Speaking of trust, has Washington's intensely partisan atmosphere made keeping secrets impossible?
Remember, partisanship has been around since the beginning of the republic. I think 24-hour news and blogs and folks out with cameras that are cell phones everyplace you go -- the reach of multimedia today has changed the entire environment. Not only that. It's a different world than it was. Whether that's good or bad, things are out in the open. You can have a news report or a blog post that goes around the world in a matter of hours.
Have you ever learned something about a candidate or person in power that you chose not to report because you felt it wasn't newsworthy?
I don't know if I would say that. I know we have chosen not to report things that we believe could endanger U.S. troops during my time at the Pentagon and traveling overseas with U.S. troops. We have made an editorial decision, not somebody telling us, but us making the proactive decision that somebody's life could be in danger because of this decision.
Was Sarah Palin's appearance in New Hampshire the same day Mitt Romney was declaring his run for the presidency a way of manipulating the press?
Governor Palin has an amazing ability to draw a crowd, especially a crowd of media. She is a force who can grab attention. The bus trip to New Hampshire was not a mistake -- The bus didn't take a wrong turn and just end up there on that day. It's still the going bet that she won't run, but clearly she is positioning herself to be a kingmaker and attention-getter if she doesn't run.
So how would have President Donald Trump changed the look and feel of the White House?
[Laughing] Well, I'm sure a great deal. I think it would be a very different Washington with a Trump presidency.
Is there a part of you that is sorry Trump did not get into the race?
He makes for interesting TV, sure. So from that standpoint, there is always a wish to have the most exciting and interesting race. But, even if no one else gets in on the Republican side (and others will), it will still be an incredibly exciting race with a lot of twists and turns. And make no mistake, Trump will make his feelings clear, even if he's not a candidate.
Can the press be manipulated?
Well, pack journalism happens. People can attract attention and in that way, I guess, you can call that manipulating in a way. If everyone is covering it, then perhaps it gets more attention than it needs in the big picture.
Do you think the coverage of Anthony Weiner scandal is an example of pack journalism?
No. It was an example of the media collectively saying, "Why won't he answer a simple question with a simple answer?" The whole thing didn't add up from the beginning. So when he became combative, evasive and vague when he first started talking about it, he MADE it a story.
What expectations did you have of a career path when you graduated from college? Is this where you wanted to be?
[Laughing] It's definitely exceeded where I wanted to be at this point. Listen, I always dreamed about being in the anchor chair in the middle of a political world, covering Washington when people are really into politics and I think now is that time.
I really do think people are more in tune with what's coming out of this capital city than they have been in quite some time. So that's what I always dreamed of. When I first started with Fox, soon after Fox News started, I dreamed of being Brit Hume. He's my mentor and friend, and it happened. I have big things ahead to make it even better. I love what I'm doing.
First Published June 20, 2011 12:00 am