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Brian Kilmeade stopped by to preview the election, Fox & Friends’ coverage plans, Fox News, when to expect a winner, rising Fox News talents, and the Super Bowl.
Kilmeade co-hosts Fox & Friends, hosts the Brian Kilmeade Show on Fox News Radio, and What Made America Great on Fox Nation.
He was great. Enjoy:
Bobby Burack: Brian, you’ve been hosting Fox & Friends for 22 years. How does the coverage and news cycle of this election compare to the past?
Brian Kilmeade: It’s much more intense than anything I’ve covered. 9/11 was interesting. The Iraq War, when the war was not going well comes to mind. But when you add up the pandemic, the passion, and Donald Trump — it’s really like no other time.
This pandemic would be enough to blow up two of the blandest candidates ever, let alone President Trump, who is like nobody else we’ve ever met or seen before on the national scene. Then he gets the virus three weeks ago. It has just all been unbelievable.
Burack: This tops 2016, with those two polarizing candidates?
Kilmeade: There’s no doubt about it. It’s not so much that Joe Biden is as dynamic or controversial as Hillary Clinton. It’s all about Donald Trump. It’s either “what would you do to support Donald Trump?” or “what would you do to get rid of Donald Trump?” It isn’t, “wow, we finally have Joe Biden.”
With Biden, I never felt that there was a clamor among Democrats that they finally had their candidate. I felt they rallied around Bill Clinton and President Obama. Even Hillary, I felt Democrats felt they had the right person. Saying she was the most “qualified candidate” and “most experienced” ever. No one does that for Joe Biden.
Burack: How much of cable news’ success moving forward depends on Trump winning Tuesday?
Kilmeade: I don’t think any. There is no doubt Donald Trump brings more interest in politics. However, our ratings boomed when President Obama was president. That’s when we started beating CNN, if I remember correctly. I think back to the election mess with Al Gore and George Bush.
Let’s go through it:
Okay, we do the election, great. The election is over, you picked the president, fine. Does that mean we’re done with the pandemic? Does that mean we’re not going to have horrific incidents? Like the attack in the church in France? Are we done talking about North Korea? Absolutely not.
Does the end of the election mean that we’re not going to be constantly watching China and this emerging alliance with Russia, which is of major concern? Iran always keeps people at the edge of their seats.
There’s no doubt about it when Trump says, “you guys are gonna miss me when I’m gone,” he is right. There’s no question they will. But I think there is always going to be a lot of interest in news. It is the only thing that’s unscripted that you have to make time for that doesn’t wait for you.
Burack: I agree, cable news and live sports are the only future traditional TV has. Plus, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris can be controversial too.
What are your coverage plans leading up to and on election night?
Kilmeade: We just got word Fox & Friends is going to be in Jersey City overlooking the Freedom Tower for a Sunday special, 6 to 10 a.m. We will be there Monday through Wednesday too. On Wednesday, we may or may not be talking about the winner. We will have to see how Tuesday night goes.
Most of the show is going to be unscripted but well produced
Election night, there is usually something going on at Fox. This year, that is not happening. So, they have it in New Jersey. It is going to be very unique. The one thing that’s established: whether you’re Democrat or Republican, you want to be on Fox News because that’s what people are watching.
One thing that I’m able to do personally is put out an email to all the Fox affiliates to ask if they want me to contribute on election night. I already have 27 hits around the country set up until 10 o’clock at night. I’m going to figure out a way to get into the election room and talk to people. I’m going to find someone who can give me information as opposed to general analysis.
I’m going to rely on the smartest people around like Bill Hemmer and Karl Rove, who can tell you the counties in almost every state that are red and blue or purple. And when a steep turn to Pennsylvania goes a certain way, I can go to Karl Rove to see what happened.
I’m not just looking for who won, I want to know why.
I can’t speak for the election team, but I don’t think there’s any push to be first. No one wants to be the person or network to call it inaccurately. I don’t think there’s going to be any rush to say who won.
Burack: Tuesday night, everything changes once either Arizona or Pennsylvania are called, right? That’s when the coverage becomes must-see.
Kilmeade: And Florida changes the coverage. If Florida goes to Joe Biden, it’s hard to see President Trump winning. If Arizona goes to Biden, Donald Trump has to go inside straight and find a way to convert the unconverted, which might be New Hampshire or Minnesota. As you see, Joe Biden scheduled his trip to Minnesota for Friday. And that is noteworthy from the cocky guy two days ago, who says I’m going to go to Georgia, and I can’t believe we’re going to convert Texas. Now, it’s, “oh, I better get to Minnesota.”
In 2016, the president, with 306 electoral votes, won with room. Meaning, he can still lose a couple of states. But it is hard for me to believe that he’s going to lose Arizona. With the two-hour time zone difference, that might not be known until later. Off the top of my head, I think Pennsylvania and North Carolina can now count their ballots a couple of days later. If that happens, and it’s as close as everyone says in those states — how the heck are we ever going to have a winner on November 4?
Burack: So you are not planning to have a winner by the Wednesday morning Fox & Friends?
Kilmeade: I don’t think it matters for us hosts. The people who care are in graphics, who have to have the winner’s name ready. We bring in the analysis. We look at the exit polls. We bring in the best guests. We make sure we have every angle of every major issue. And that’s it. If the winner is on hold, it’s on hold.
Actually, the most exciting thing that I’ve seen outside covering live sporting events was the election standoff in Florida. We went to reporters in front of county offices and had no idea what he or she was going to say. Whether they’d say a ballot recount was coming or if they were about to declare the next president. It was unreal. That could happen again.
Maybe we will hear they looked at the provisional ballots, and upon further review, there’s another thousand in play. That’s how exciting this could be.
Burack: Before I covered the news industry and I just covered sports media, there were several hosts who had TV and radio shows. I always heard industry sources say it was possible as long as there were one-two hours in between. You must disagree. You host Fox & Friends from 6-9 then the radio show 9-12. How long do you have?
Kilmeade: Six minutes.
In six minutes, I go up to the 15th floor and get there 90 seconds early.
I wake up at 2:30 a.m., I’m studying by 2:45. It takes me an hour to get in, so I’m able to read at that time. Fox sends a car. I take a train on the way back. My most intense time is 3 to 6 a.m. During Fox & Friends, I’m going back-and-forth with the radio guys. They’ll ask, “Did you like that guest? Do you want me to get them for radio?”
We adjust as we go.
The radio show, which thankfully, has gained a lot of momentum, is like a living breathing slice of life, not a show where the curtain goes up and everything’s prepared. It’s life. If the GDP numbers come in, we need an economic plan so we get Charles Payne on. I have no idea what the numbers are going to be. There are no written questions. Then we plan to talk about it more, and I look up and Mark Morgan got his Twitter account frozen because he’s announcing that he’s adding more miles to the wall.
You don’t know what will happen at any given segment. But it’s fun. By noon, after six straight live hours, people think I worked all day. Really, that was work?
The most underappreciated thing about our shows, and you can appreciate this, and I hope it makes your piece, is the producers. They are unbelievable. They never stop. And now they’re doing it on Zoom. There are 30-50 people who rotate in. Some of them haven’t been to the studio since February, and are doing some of the most important issues at the most important time, and not even able to go into work.
Burack: You filled in for Tucker Carlson several times this summer in primetime. Moving forward, what do you want to do next in your career? Would you be satisfied doing what you’re doing now until the end?
Kilmeade: Great question, Bobby. I want to get better. I know you know this, the path in our business has been set up like stairs. If you do sports radio locally, you want to go national, then if that works, be a top national host. If you are on cable, you want to go network. But those days are done.
I watch these network shows, the breaks they take, the likeness of their subjects, a format that doesn’t allow them to go deep — I don’t think we can say networks are a step-up anymore.
I got lucky enough to get this job when no one knew what Fox News was. Then it became No. 1 and we’ve sustained that ever since. Now, it’s not just the No. 1 cable news network, we are beating channels we aren’t supposed to. I want to do that.
And, at the same time, write my books and talk history live unscripted on stage. That’s the next step.
Yeah, I’ve done this same job for over 20 years, but it’s not the same job. People say to me, “you’ve had the same job for decades.” I respond, “have you seen how everything has changed and grown and morphed?”
Also, I love now being asked to do stuff I didn’t use to get asked to do. It means so much to get asked to stay for The Five and Outnumbered. Getting asked to fill in for Tucker and Laura.
I also got this new Fox Nation series, What Made America Great. I go down to these great places in American history for 45-minute mini-documentaries.
At this point in my career, I’m in the gym playing all my favorite sports. I get asked all the time what’s next. Can I just keep playing these games?
Burack: Who are some talents on the rise at Fox News?
Kilmeade: I look at the hosts of our weekend show, they are as good as ever. Pete [Hegseth] is phenomenal. Jedediah [Bila] has always been a great champion since coming off The View.
Will Cain, this guy is a stud. This guy can do it all. Coming from sports is very rare. And he brings that same passion to news. He joins me on Fridays on radio. You just see the depth of his knowledge. You hear it. This guy is going to be a superstar. There’s no doubt about it.
Dan Bongino, who is a contributor at Fox, is another. He would be a phenomenal host.
Then you look at the field. Bryan Llenas has been unbelievable handling those riots. Jesse Watters is not up and coming, he has arrived — but he is killing it. No one is funnier than Greg Gutfeld.
I look at our channel. It uses a diverse collection of talent and does a great job of just letting you be yourself. For better or for worse, the people you watch on television are who you get at a restaurant or on the soccer field. If you’re not yourself here, you probably won’t last.
Burack: I heard you may be a sports fan. Who is winning the Super Bowl?
Tampa Bay’s getting better every week. Kansas City just got Le’Veon Bell. I thought the Rams were going to dip this year but are coming on strong.
Right now, I would have to say, Seattle and Kansas City.
Follow Bobby Burack on Twitter @burackbobby_.