Exclusive: Trey Gowdy Still Asking Questions

When I began to cover the news industry, I set a goal to interview media personalities with the most unique backgrounds, the ones who didn't take a traditional path, the talents whose careers weren't a straight road.

This brings me to Fox News' Trey Gowdy, whose career includes stints as a federal prosecutor, a U.S. Representative from South Carolina, and a Chairman on the House Benghazi Committee.

Burack: Your new weekly TV show, Sunday Night in America with Trey Gowdy, debuts tonight at 7 pm on Fox News. How did this opportunity arise? Did the weeks you tested for 7 pm play a role?

Gowdy: Well, first of all, thank you for having me on. I greatly appreciate it. Fox was kind enough to let me host at 7 pm. I did it for a couple of weeks. Look, I have a renewed respect for people that do that for a living and make it seem effortless. I'm a lot more Ron Burgundy than I am Martha McCallum or Dana Perino, both of whom just look so flawless on live television. It's not that easy.

I look at live TV like the courtroom. You have interesting witnesses. They're called guests on television, not witnesses, but you ask them different questions. Then you let the jury -- in this case, the audience -- make up its mind. So, I think the new show got a start there, at 7 pm.

The weekly format just fits. It fits with the other things I have going on in my life. I do two podcasts now for Fox. I travel to speak. I'm in Colorado right now. I also love teaching, Bobby. Each Sunday just fits perfectly with all that.

Burack: Primetime cable news shows are traditionally formed to let a host persuade the audience with their opinions. Hence the title "opinionists." In your book, Doesn't Hurt to Ask, you say questions, not opinions, are the best methods of persuading someone, whether it's a jury, former fellow House members, or your children. Are the TV viewers next?

Gowdy: Yes. And thank you for reading my book and noticing that my questions, not my opinions, are what I care about.

We live in a participatory democracy. I am not above trying to persuade people. It's just that. It's persuasion, not finding a group that already believes X and ratifying or validating their beliefs.

I ask questions for a living. That's what I've always done. That's what I did before I got to Congress. That's what I do now. That's what I wrote my last book on. That's what I will do on Sunday nights.

Here's the most important thing: to hear other sides besides my own. I can't think of a single issue for which there are not at least two sides. Oftentimes, there are six sides. I'm welcome to mine, and you are welcome to yours. We are better as a country if we understand where other folks are coming from.

It's not hard, Bobby. Anyone can do that. It was much harder when I used to do it in the courtroom, which was to find 12 open-minded people, then using a combination of facts and logic -- and passion, where appropriate, but that's often appropriate third, after facts and logic.

If we are a participatory democracy, we're going to bump into people that have different viewpoints, people who view the facts differently. And that's fine, that's good. In court, I would pay closer attention to the other side's witnesses than I did my own witnesses. You got to listen to know where the other side is coming from.

I'm not any smarter than anybody else. Why should I tell you how to think about an issue? Where I want to help is say, "Hey, have you considered this fact or that fact? If so, does it change anything?"

Sunday night is the perfect night for me to reflect on the week that's been. To see what we got right, what we got wrong, what we may have missed or underestimated. Then project forward.

I'm not looking for answers that begin with "I feel," but answers that begin with "I think."

Burack: Aren't questions the biggest threat to the establishment, to politicians, to leaders? They can dismiss someone's opinion. It's easy, just call them a member of QAnon. But when they have to answer, answer for what they say, that's when a lie can meet its downfall.

Gowdy: I don't know how we got to this place in our country. We're in desperate need -- and I got flaws like everyone else -- of some kind of neutral, detached arbiter as our title referee. Not someone who you have to like, but that is fair. I watch plenty of sporting events. I don't always like the umpire, but I at least think he or she is fair.

Where do we go for that fairness on important issues? I can't find it anywhere. I just got through writing a line in a book I got coming out, saying you can never lose sight of the reality that your friends could be wrong and your opponents can be right.

Tim Scott is my best friend in all of politics. There are plenty of issues we don't agree on. I'm constantly in this state of evaluation that if somebody who I respect has a different perspective, I should ask more questions to get a better understanding of where they are coming from.

Somehow, we've reached a point where, if they're on my side, they have my jersey on, they cannot be wrong. As a culture, that's just a terrible place for us to be.

Burack: I would've said in January that our justice system is our only major institution that has yet to be politicized. I now have concerns, given the overt political pressure those 12 jurors faced to convict Derek Chauvin of all three chargers, which ultimately they did and quickly.

I can't think of anything more dangerous or consequential than that. Do you share my concerns?

Gowdy: Bobby, I am very much in fear of a politicized justice system. Our justice system is epitomized by a woman who chooses to wear a blindfold, she chooses not to see who is in front of her. She is blinded from political ideology, race, and gender. Lady Justice has affirmatively chosen to be blindfolded because she wants to be objective.

What's troubling, I see prosecutors running for office -- we have some in California now -- that simply think because they don't like the law, they don't have to enforce it. What? I'm sitting there, scratching my head. It requires no courage at all to enforce a law with which you agree. And to my Republican friends in the House: it takes no courage at all to follow a rule that you agree with.

What does take encourage, what sets us apart, is when we follow laws and rules that we don't agree with. Or when we try to change them. If you are so heck-bent on not following the rule, you must accept that there are consequences. But what we have now is this mindset that says, I'm not going to follow the rules, and I'm not going to accept the consequences for it.

Our justice system is unique, and we have to get the right person for the right crime. We have to do it the right way. So, even if the person confesses but you did not take the confession properly, or you didn't search the house properly, we value the process. That's the justice system.

Look, I get very frustrated when I see folks on television promising outcomes, whether it's that someone will be indicted or go to prison. When they are wrong, they've set expectations that cannot be reached.

That also says that our justice system is outcome-determinative. That we're going to reach the outcome upfront, and then go figure out a way to get there. No, that's not the pursuit of justice. That's not the pursuit of the truth. This is why you never heard me say that John Durham was going to do X, or that Bill Barr was going to do Y, or that Merrick Garland is going to do Z.

We need prosecutors and judges who follow the facts and follow the law. You start with the facts, and then you see where they take you.

I am very much in fear of a politicized justice system. Religion, culture, or sports have already become so seeped in politics.

Burack: You mentioned you are writing a new book. Are you going to stick with fiction books?

Gowdy: Moving forward, I love the idea of writing a crime thriller/drama. A psychological thriller. I love that. I don't want to say that I'm fascinated by it, because I did a lot of homicide cases. I saw a lot of terrible things. I love the idea of writing one of these.

But the current book I'm writing is what I would call part of the human condition. The No. 1 question I get is: "Why did you leave?" Most people don't leave undefeated and unindicted. They are shown the door. I walked out the door. So, I'm writing a book about the decisions I've had to make in life.

I have run for two offices, both times in the primary against an entrenched incumbent, which is a very scary thing to do. You think about it, you're running in the primary against someone who's been in office for a long time. It's tough. I had to develop a decision-making paradigm and overcome the fear, the anxiety of leaving a job I loved with no guarantees. I want to go through this process.

Then people ask me, "Well, why did you leave Congress after that?" I'm going to explain. I hope the book will help others overcome the fear of whatever may imprison them as it pertains to their own decision-making.

Burack: What do you want to accomplish next?

Gowdy: I love to teach. I'm teaching a class this fall at a local liberal arts university, and I'm teaching a class in law school. I love it. And I love that I'm married to a school teacher. If you want to change the world, you should teach people to do something they can't currently do. And for me, that is critical reasoning.

I taught a class last fall, and I made the kids go off for 15 minutes to find what it is they are most passionate about. The issue they cared the most about. Then right before they got ready to address the class about what they found, I told them they needed to give the other side of what they thought.

You have to be able to think critically and understand the other side of the argument. There's just not much of a market for that. I want to change that.

My short-term goal is to win the Senior Club Championship at my local golf course. I've done it once. But I want to do it again. You won't see me on the ballot anymore, but I'd love to hoist that little trophy at a golf course I've been playing since I was five years old.

Burack: Give me three predictions, Trey. About politics or sports, of which I hear you are a fan.

Gowdy: Oh gosh. Okay, prediction No. 1: Kim Mulkey and Dawn Staley are going to fight it out for SEC Women's Basketball. I'm a big fan of both of them. It'd be fantastic.

No. 2, I'll predict that Kevin McCarthy is the next Speaker of the House. But politics being what it is, two things have to happen. Number one, Republicans have to take the House. Number two, I'm sure there will be other ambitious, enterprising members on the Republican side that also look in the mirror and see a Speaker.

And then my third prediction, which will make Tim Scott very happy, is the Dallas Cowboys actually make the playoffs. I must be talking with my heart, not my head, which I don't like doing but I'm running out of time for the Cowboys to get back to the glory days of yesterday.

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Bobby Burack is a writer for OutKick where he reports and analyzes the latest topics in media, culture, sports, and politics.. Burack has become a prominent voice in media and has been featured on several shows across OutKick and industry related podcasts and radio stations.