Fox News' Bret Baier, the anchor of the 6 p.m. ET "Special Report," will tonight mark five years since taking over for Brit Hume.
"Special Report" is the rare example of a show that earns primetime-esque ratings (averaging more than 2 million a night) in a non-primetime slot. The program was up double-digits in both total viewers and in the key 25-54 age demographic last year. It is consistently among the top-five cable news programs.
We emailed with Baier ahead of the five-year anniversary. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation:
Q: It's been 5 years since you've taken the reigns of the show, but only 15 years that you've been at Fox. What can you say about your run so far and some of the twists it's taken along the way?
My career is full of lots of twists and turns. Thankfully, Roger Ailes plucked me out of local television 16 years ago and gave me a chance at his new cable news operation. From Atlanta to the Pentagon to the White House to the anchor chair taking over the show from my mentor and friend, Brit Hume, has been a pretty incredible journey. Five years in that chair has flown by, and I thanked Roger directly the other day for giving me that first chance.
Q: What was the key to maintaining the success of Special Report once you took the helm?
The key to maintaining success of Special Report is the team we have here: the Special Report staff, producers, correspondents, editors, director, technicians — there are a lot of people who make the show work ... focusing on detail, but also giving people the big picture. Families all over the country are dealing with a lot of things a lot more important to them than the latest back and forth in Washington. In other words, don’t talk down to people — make it conversational, but give people a sense of why something may be important. Let them decide whether it is.
Q: What was the best piece of advice Brit Hume gave you upon taking over?
The thing Brit Hume told me when I took over the show was, “Let the news drive the show.” It was simple, but it was a great piece of advice. It’s not a personality driven show — it’s a news driven show with analysis at the end from professionals who have covered and written about Washington for decades. It’s an equation that works.
Q: What have been some of the more memorable moments (and most memorable stories you've covered) during your five-year run?
Tough to choose one. But, definitely my sit-down with President Obama in March of 2010. Those were big stakes. I think it was a memorable interview, conducted at a pivotal moment — right when the Affordable Care Act was passing Congress. I was pressing President Obama for answers about how his health care law would work, on the eve of its final passage. Hindsight shows these were important exchanges that he and I had. In 2012, I pressed Governor Romney on his healthcare plan when he was Republican frontrunner and that was another memorable interview for me ... leading up to moderating 5 Presidential debates that primary season was a real thrill.
Q: It's also been a while now since you had that interview with President Obama. Can you talk about the ongoing campaign you have to get him back in?
We have made additional requests every month since my last interview with the President. I have talked with him personally many times and he knows he’s always welcome back on Special Report and that he’ll receive fair treatment here; I hope he comes around.
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