Kennedy of Fox News stops by OutKick to talk about her primetime show on Fox Business, her life growing up, and her athletic skills.
Later in the interview, Kennedy makes three (questionable) sports predictions. Don’t miss that.
Bobby Burack: How do you go about preparing for your show? It’s in a competitive spot in primetime. There’s a lot of competition. What are your viewers looking for from you?
Kennedy: I don’t think about other people or what they’re doing. I don’t want to get distracted by thinking about that. I try to think about what’s most important to convey to people and have a good time.
Sometimes having a good time means you’re being rowdy. Sometimes it is humorous in conversation with people. Other times, it’s getting to the truth of something without too much animosity, calling people out when they’re being hypocritical. By and large, having a lively conversation about stuff that we all mutually care about.
What the host is feeling is what the host cares about. That’s what comes across. I don’t have a ton of respect for hosts who just follow what they think other people are doing or what they should be doing. That’s a horrible precedent to set for yourself as a broadcaster. You shouldn’t even be on the air if you’re following other people.
You have to be doing your own thing in your own way. Honestly, Bobby, we all tend to care about the same kinds of things. What differentiates us is the level of passion, the level of knowledge and curiosity.
Burack: How did you get to Fox News and Fox Business?
Kennedy: It started in 2012 when John Stossel hired me to be his correspondent for the political conventions. Then I got a job on his show as his special correspondent, which was great. Stossel would send me and a producer into the field into some of the most insane situations. There was always a great story that he wanted to be told through a libertarian prism. I had a great time doing that.
Before that, I had done stuff like that at MTV. Certainly at Woodstock, places like that. I had done a lot of remote broadcasting. It’s always fun because you never know what’s gonna happen. It’s up to you to help the moment unfold.
We went to an outdoor shooting range in Texas and met with Cody, the guy who had developed the 3D printed gun. We went and tried to shoot with bullets whizzing past our heads. We went to a really feisty school board meeting in Oakland, where they were trying to kick this guy Ben Chavis out with his successful charter schools, which his students and parents loved. The teachers unions are so strong in California and in Northern California. Honestly, seeing that kind of blowback was really telling.
After all that, we had developed a show idea, a libertarian show idea. That actually turned into the show that I do now, Monday through Thursday, and pretty soon we’ll be on at 7 pm ET, 4 pm in the West.
It has been a journey.
Burack: Who are the broadcasters you idolized when you got into the business? I can usually tell which broadcaster someone else has taken after, but you have a unique on-air style.
Kennedy: For sure. I didn’t want to be a traditional anchor or broadcaster. And so I kind of had non-traditional influences. I really liked listening to Jim Rome on the Mighty 690. Yeah, when I was starting out in radio in Southern California, it was hard to get the signal because he was in San Diego. I used to listen to him a lot and I liked him. I liked the way he bantered with the people who called in. I liked how Rome was feisty, he fought with people. Van Earl Wright too.
Also, I grew up worshipping Howard Stern. He was probably my biggest influence, definitely getting into radio, music radio, and certainly at MTV. I was inspired by Stern’s work ethic, his style, and how he brought everyone to the party. That’s a really important element because people are so interested in training themselves that they forget to listen. One of the things that makes Howard Stern probably the best interviewer in broadcasting is his ability to listen and live in the moment. He’s already got it coming from an informed place. And when you combine that with this amazing engaged, active listening — that’s when you get the best questions. That’s when people really open up because you know he’s been through so much. They trust him.
I really liked Oprah and Diane Sawyer in the early 90s. I always thought Diane Sawyer was really good at reading the teleprompter. And I think mechanics are very, very important. Whenever people are coming up here at Fox, who I’m trying to help, I tell them to work on mechanics. That was something that was so crucial when I was in radio: having mentors who took the time when they didn’t have to, to help me learn how to do the job because there were some real specifics. When you learn those, you learn the dance steps then you can come up with your own choreography. You must learn the basics first. You must get the algebra down before you move to calculus.
Burack: I know what Kennedy is like now. What was Kennedy like growing up?
Kennedy: Oh my, I love it. I was talking to my brother about this the other day because I have two girls, they’re 12 and 16 and they were asking my brother what I was like as a kid. He was like, I was pretty much the same as I am now. He said I had some super funny friends and that I worked really hard.
It’s funny because my oldest brother is four years older than me, and I didn’t think he was paying attention. I’m like, ‘That’s so nice he knew I was in the school play and doing all these political things.’ Oh, he asked my daughters if they had seen the movie Rushmore, because that is pretty much me.
Bobby, I failed out of high school but I had a million extracurricular activities: two choirs, I worked for my state representative, I was president of the Students Club. I did all this stuff, but I hated sitting in a boring classroom. So I had a couple of teachers who failed me, and I was like, ‘Screw it.’ I just never went back and got my high school diploma.
But then, I was doing talk radio and an internet radio site in LA in 2001. I was doing a morning show that ended at nine. I would go surfing with my friend Heidi Merrick, that would take part of the day. I needed more, I needed something to dive into. So I started taking classes at Santa Monica College. I really fell in love with it.
I had been working for 10 years. I put a pause on that just to focus on learning. And so I just went straight through. I started out with two classes and then I went to summer school. I took winter terms — whatever I could. And then when I graduated, I was 38 weeks pregnant.
I actually have a college degree from UCLA. So even though I didn’t finish high school, I did get through college. It was because I wanted to go, and it also fueled my belief that people should not go to college who don’t belong there. If they don’t want to learn, they should not waste their time and certainly not their money.
Then I had a baby. Now she’s 16 and she’s really cute.
Burack: A few different people at Fox News told me you are the network’s second-best athlete behind Sandra Smith. Is that true?
Kennedy: Ohhh. I don’t know where I rank. Sandra is a D1 steeplechaser. I believe she still holds records at LSU. She’s a badass, Bobby. She runs in local races where she lives, and she wins. Like, she wins these races. She’s still just a phenomenal athlete. However, I probably train more than anyone at Fox.
I have a half Ironman coming up next month. It’s only Wednesday, and I’ve already trained eight hours this week. And I have a lot of training to go before Sunday. I work really hard. I may not have the natural skills like Sandra, but I’m the Mark Messier of Fox athletes. I’m real blue collar.
Burack: Give me three sports predictions over the next 12 months.
Kennedy: You’re gonna see a Pac-12 team in the National Championship in football. Obviously, UCLA will continue to dominate in things like water polo, women’s tennis, men’s and women’s soccer.
I think UCLA basketball is probably going to have the most exciting year since maybe the mid-90s. It’s just a phenomenal team. The game against Gonzaga was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen. Yes, it was heartbreaking for Bruins fans, but to hang in there, to go that long with the team that had been outscoring all their opponents by 30 points — that’s a big deal.
The Yankees are getting hot at the right time — it’s beautiful to see. I think the Yankees will win a pennant, and the New York Rangers will probably also have a great season.
Go Pac-12. The SEC is gross.
Burack: Before you go, I’m going to give you a chance to redeem yourself with Clay Travis and all of our SEC football readers.
Kennedy: I have family in the South. I respect the game. Nick Saban is kind of a tool. No one really likes him.
Follow Bobby Burack on Twitter, @burackbobby.