A year ago January FNC anchor Bret Baier replaced Brit Hume, now a senior political analyst. Baier’s show, “Special Report”, marks 100 months at #1 in its respective cable time slot. We chatted with Baier by phone this morning on his snowy drive to work as he described his new regimen of ironing his pants and filling Hume’s big shoes in the past year.
When you first found out you were replacing Brit Hume what did you think? I was ecstatic. I thought these were really big shoes to fill, but I felt up to the challenge. The best part was Brit was staying on as a senior analyst. In the first few weeks I was checking the graphic to make sure I was still on it.
Do you feel you’ve been able to fill those shoes? They’re different shoes. They were big shoes to fill. I handle the show a little bit differently. No one can replace Brit Hume. But judging by viewership, I think we have been able to do pretty well. It’s not a personality-driven show. It’s more about reporting the straight news as well interaction with the panel. We’ve just made some slight changes. I stand up at the front of the show in front of this big video. The writing is in my style. The main framework is exactly the same.
Do you get a lot of viewer reaction? Tons. Hundreds of e-mails every night. I spend an hour a day reading and responding to e-mails. The ones that are extremely complimentary and the ones that are really critical – surprisingly, I love that interaction. They say, ‘Oh my gosh I didn’t mean to sound so rude.’ The off-the-wall ones I really enjoy responding to. Some say ‘Gosh, you are so in the bag for President Obama’. And others say, ‘Oh, you are so right wing.’ I love to copy one to the other – part of the little joys.
Do you get viewers commenting on your hair and clothing? Oh yes, of course. I’ve had, you’ve gotta get a haircut. That tie, what message are you trying to send with that tie? Your pants are wrinkled … to a point where I’ve started a regime to take my pants to get pressed before the show. In HG you can really see the wrinkles.
Fox News President Roger Ailes has been in the news a lot lately touting that Fox News is the most trusted network out there.* What do you think of that and do they tell you how many times to say “fair and balanced” during a segment? I’ve always thought – and this is not the company line – that we, as a news organization, have tried to be fair and balanced. It’s not just a motto. Of course we’re going to tout that public policy poll saying we are the most trusted operation in news. We sometimes put in, ‘We report, you decide’. A lady stopped me once in an airport: ‘You’re Bret Baier, you report and I decide’. And I thought, this is working. It really is how we approach things. It’s not just a mantra.
*Ailes cited a poll finding FNC most trustworthy on ABC’s “This Week” this past Sunday.