Fox & Friends Weekend host Pete Hegseth joins OutKick to talk about his new book, going from the military to Fox News, how flawed higher education is, left-wing social media platforms, his idols, and much more.
Hegseth hosts the Patriot Awards tonight. He explains why it’s nothing like all the other award shows you’ve ever watched.
Bobby Burack: Your new book, Modern Warriors, comes out Nov. 24. I’m going to order.
Pete Hegseth: Yes, thanks for having me, Bobby. The book is a culmination of the Fox Nation series of the same name, which we started a couple years ago. I host Fox & Friends, where we would do three-and-a-half-minute segments on vets and warriors, all of which were great. But you feel like you could do 30 minutes or three-and-a-half hours with these guys on their stories. I had a sense that the audience would love a deeper glimpse into the lives of our modern warriors, the guys who have been fighting the battles for the last 20 years.
The idea is to get a beer in these guys’ hands, get them in a comfortable setting, and talk about the big topics, combat politics, warfare, sacrifice, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, transitioning back home.
I’m not really asking questions — I’m facilitating the discussion. What’s cool about it, these guys get real comfortable. And we start getting the real story, the real deal behind what happens when you go overseas and fight for your country. It became a fascinating series of these specials on Fox Nation, which, later on, we said, “Hey, this could easily be a book.”
That’s what the Modern Warriors book is: real stories from real heroes. Fifteen guys, it’s almost exclusively in their voice. I chime in a little bit. It was an honor. I think readers will find it compelling and a fascinating glimpse into Medal of Honor recipients, Seals, Rangers, snipers, F/A-18 pilots, Caroline Johnson, the female who dropped bombs on ISIS.
I think readers across the spectrum will enjoy it as it reminds them why America is such a special country. And ask themselves, “What other country produces these types of warriors who fight not because they hate what’s in front of them, but because they love what’s behind them?”
Bobby Burack: Fox News talents are not a bunch of journalism majors who got there by being offended and never offering an original thought. Some are journalists, but others are former politicians, aides, lawyers, teachers, radio hosts, those who didn’t go to college, former Secret Service agents. How did you get to Fox News?
Pete Hegseth: I was hoping you could explain it to me, Bobby. Ha, I didn’t see it coming.
But you are right on Fox News. It’s a huge value that it’s not just a bunch of people who wanted to be in broadcasting. It’s a broad spectrum of people who had very serious and substantial life experiences.
For me, I was in the military, deployed multiple times, ran a couple of groups for vets, and through running those vets advocate groups, I ended up doing a lot of hits on multiple cable networks, but mostly on Fox. One day they asked, “Hey, have you ever thought about asking questions instead of answering them?” Fox then gave me a shot to host on Fox and Friends. At that time, I hadn’t done professional television in that role before. But if you’ve been shot at, reading a teleprompter and asking a couple of questions is not the most stressful thing you’ve ever done in your life.
I’m no smarter than anybody else. I try to just think deeply from what I know about the issues our nation is facing. As a vet, I take the responsibility to channel that perspective very seriously.
For me, the extension of service to the country is what really fires me to get up every day in this amazing country. Every generation has to fight in order to keep it. I just get to do it wearing makeup.
I’m very open about what I believe. I’ve never purported to be a journalist. I’m not. I’m a host, a commentator, and an analyst. I’m conservative and support our president. The viewers know I believe America is worth fighting for. I’m not pretending to be anyone or trying to fool a single viewer.
Bobby, you bring up the different backgrounds of the various Fox News hosts. We go live when we killed Al Baghdadi, when we killed Qasem Soleimani, when a police officer or soldier thought their life was threatened. The moments they had to decide to pull the trigger or not, to taser, to de-escalate or not. Those are really hard determinations to make unless you’ve walked in their shoes, and have a sense of what it takes to make a split-second decision when you want to go home at night, as well.
Bobby Burack: Once you got a job on-air at Fox News, which wasn’t planned, was there a commentator you idolized or modeled your style after?
Pete Hegseth: Oh, man, modeled my style after? I was just trying to survive at the beginning. But of course, there are a lot of people I look up to.
There’s a guy named Jason Lewis. He was Minnesota’s Mr. Right who became America’s Mr. Right, who just almost won a senate seat in Minnesota. I grew up listening to him on the radio, and I found him just fascinating and compelling. He was a great education for a youngster like me. Of course, Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh.
The cool thing is, when I showed up at Fox & Friends, Brian, Steve, Ainsley couldn’t have been better colleagues. Saying, “This is how it works,” “This is what you need to know,” “This is how we analyze certain issues on certain days.” They showed me how to have a television mindset, an interesting television mindset, and an interesting content mindset.
When I was fortunate enough to start guest-hosting on Fox & Friends Weekend, Tucker Carlson was still the co-host. In fact, when he went to primetime right after the 2016 election, that’s when I became more or less the full-time host of the weekend show. Just having a front-row seat to Tucker, to watch him, how he operates, how he analyzes, and how he’s willing to cut against the grain of conventional thinking, was amazing and educational. Sean Hannity, too.
I saw the way Kilmeade makes television fun to watch. The way Doocy brings new information. Ainsley brings honesty and the refreshing, genuine nature of commentary. I started to soak that all up.
I took a little bit from everybody but stayed who I am off-air.
Bobby Burack: In August, your show Fox & Friends Weekend went from two permanent hosts to three. How did that change the show?
Pete Hegseth: Ah, man, I love Will Cain. Will Cain is the man. We are so lucky to have him on Fox & Friends. The best part, he is a friend. That changes it. I got to know Will when we were co-hosts, well he was the real co-host, at The Blaze on Real News. I remember watching him and Buck Sexton, who you just spoke to, quarterback this hour-long show. It was similar to The Five. It had long segments, they would go up to the chalkboard and analyze different things. Will is whip-smart, his takes are always unique. He says what others aren’t saying.
He went to ESPN, rocked it there, and built his own show. A sports show. I remember thinking it’d be a lot of fun to host with him again. And then somehow, we were able to make it happen. I was thrilled. So yeah, I think the show is exponentially better with Will as a co-host. He is a guy who adds so much.
Will is my friend and co-host. I couldn’t be happier.
Bobby Burack: What are some topics you want to dig deeper into on Fox Nation or in an upcoming book?
Pete Hegseth: One of the projects we are working on, it will happen in 2021, is the left-wing takeover of education. Not just in universities, Bobby, but how we got to the place where our government schools are effectively teaching kids America is not a good place.
Our history has been changed. Our economy has changed. Our God has been ripped out. We’re challenging the core values of our country. How did that happen? Did it just accidentally happen? Was it the 60s? We explore the arc of educating American citizens and how we got to a point where the left has turned schools into indoctrination camps.
Without changing the way we educate kids, we have no chance of recapturing the founding values of our country that unite us.
There’s a reason in our culture, we have things like not standing for the anthem or saying that 1619 is our real founding. Saying that America was never great. Those things take hold because there’s a fertile soil of young people who are not being taught the real story about America. Yes, America is flawed and we’ve had sins of our past, but we’re not defined by those sins.
If you want to compare America to heaven, we’re going to fail every single time. But if you want to compare America to the rest of the world, we remain a stand-alone beacon of freedom that is contrary to human history. The vast majority of people who have ever lived, lived under dictators, kings, oligarchs, or theocrats. Free people governing themselves is extremely rare and sustaining that is really difficult.
Bobby Burack: The independent minds in media — Joe Rogan, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck — didn’t make their names because of a fancy degree. Those who have, like the Ivy League grads, mostly all think alike. They see the world one way. They are afraid to think for themselves. Higher education doesn’t teach a student to think independently anymore. Instead, it teaches them to think as they are taught.
Pete Hegseth: And you’re talking to someone who went to those schools. I went to Princeton as an undergraduate. I went to Harvard for a master’s. And, Bobby, you are absolutely right. You nailed it. Higher education is a problem.
I wrote this in my book. I’m sending my degree from Harvard back to Harvard and saying, “Keep it, I don’t want it.” I don’t want to validate an institution that is poisoning the minds of the next generation, which is training up global citizens who think America is a bad place, teaching socialism and a rejection of capitalism. They are refusing to acknowledge the religious roots of our country.
It’s almost as if every bad idea is laundered in these Ivy League institutions. There’s a quote from Thomas Sowell in my book that says, “The road to hell is paved with Ivy League degrees.” I very much believe that. You’re not taught to think freely, you’re not tolerated to think freely in these places. You are told there’s one view, follow your orthodoxy, and you will get your degree which will open every door for you for the rest of your life. But you must obey.
The president talks about the media as the enemy of the people. That’s part of what the president has done so well. He has ripped open the conversation and pulled back the curtain to reveal that we’re being lied to by a lot of these elites that are more than prepared to sell America down the river. He is right. But the Ivy League is the enemy of the people, too.
The challenge is getting people to wake up. Stop sending your kids to these colleges. We better start creating our own education systems or telling our kids you don’t need it to succeed. Especially in a more wide-open economy, a digital economy where you can share content and ideas. You don’t need high-level degrees to reach success. There aren’t the traditional gatekeepers of the past.
We have a crop of kids growing up, being taught that America is not good. You can’t keep the country when your citizens think you’re a bad country. These institutions are garbage.
If one of my kids said, “Hey, I want to go to Princeton,” I wouldn’t send them unless I felt they were totally ideologically fortified and prepared for the impending assault on their values.
Bobby Burack: 100%. How do you suggest we handle social media, another far-left industry trying to prevent independent thinking?
Pete Hegseth: Oh, it’s a huge problem. Left-wing social media guards enforce almost North Korean-style groupthink. It’s why the president has been so important, not just for our country, but for me personally. He changed my view of understanding. What it takes to fight against that overwhelming orthodoxy is untenable for 99.999% of the population. It takes someone with a force of nature and resolve and willingness to fight. It took Donald Trump to reveal it.
I’ll use a military analogy: I’m an infantry officer. In the worst kind of ambush you can get caught in, it’s called an L shaped ambush. Meaning, you’re effectively surrounded by overwhelming fire, the enemy is right on top of you. You are in the kill zone. If you don’t get out of that kill zone, you’re dead immediately. In the infantry, you’re taught that you’ve got to seek whatever cover you can quickly. And then you’ve got to throw grenades and charge at the ambush. That’s your only chance to get out of an ambush where you’re entirely pinned down. And for decades, Republicans have effectively sat in the kill zone and said, “Can we negotiate?” Playing within the confines the left has constructed in higher education, in the media, the deep state, Hollywood, and Silicon Valley. What Donald Trump taught us to do is get out of the kill zone, grab the metaphorical grenade, lob it toward the enemy, and charge. We must regain the advantage by taking the enemy out of the tall grass. This is truly where I think we are.
Twitter is nothing but a leftist echo chamber. It’s more or less worthless in that sense. It’s not the real world. That’s why I value the role I’ve had for four or five years now being a Fox & Friends diner correspondent. I’ve been traveling across the country meeting people and having real conversations. That’s a much more accurate reflection of American sentiment than Twitter is.
We have to create an alternative platform. Parler seems to be that place, a place that’s not rigged against you. Do you see what they do to the president’s tweets? It’s almost like the Ivy League, again.
Twitter is garbage. There’s no reason to think it has any more power than it has.
I’d love to see the president move over to Parler. If he moves, the whole conversation moves because now the media is covering what you are saying on Parler.
Bobby Burack: You are hosting the Patriot Awards tonight on Fox Nation. I’m told it will be different this year, but just as important.
Pete Hegseth: I love the Patriot Awards. We did it last year in St. Petersburg, pre-COVID. Thousands of people with amazing energy. It was a celebration of America. The show is the opposite of every other award show you’ve ever seen, which is a bunch of self-important, leftists spewing their anti-American leftist garbage from the stage while giving awards to other actors who play heroes on TV. It’s all a sham, a self-glorifying exercise. The Patriot Awards is the opposite. We’re giving awards to real heroes, to people who did things not because they thought they might get an award for it or because there might be an award show and they get to wear a fancy dress — but because they love their fellow citizens.
If you tune in, you’re gonna cry, smile, your heart is going to be tugged, you’re going to be proud of this great country. It’s just an amazing night. We will love America together.