Skip to comments.Bret Baier settles into the house that Brit Hume built (Good article on good man)
Posted on 12/18/2009 9:41:46 AM PST by jazusamo
When Fox News executives went looking to replace Brit Hume last year, they had to find someone to take over for their franchise newsman, the staid and steady Washington hand whose arrival in 1996 had conferred instant legitimacy on the upstart network.
But the network turned not to another Hume, not a traditional anchor-desk presence or deep-voiced TV vet, but to Bret Baier sunny, serious, self-deprecating and approachable. Eight years ago, he was holding down the networks bureau in Atlanta. Today, he steps before the camera every weekday to anchor Fox Newss Special Report one-hour news program.
Count Hume a fan. My attitude is: Id like to be Bret Baier, Hume told POLITICO. Hes an incredibly attractive, exceedingly able, totally honorable guy.
Fox News is having a banner year in the ratings, but critics say its because the network has turned away from journalism and turned to advocacy, with its high-profile trio of conservative commentators: Bill OReilly, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck. The White House recently took on Fox News as well, saying the network was a wing of the Republican Party.
When Fox News takes on its critics and it does, defending its status as an objective news outlet the network points to anchors Shepard Smith and Baier, a former White House correspondent whose program offers a straight-ahead reading of the days headlines every night.
Sandwiched between Beck at 5 p.m. and The Fox Report With Shepard Smith at 7 p.m., Baiers Special Report offers an in-depth look at political news designed to appeal to Fox Newss viewership. Hume, who handpicked Baier as his successor, still regularly appears as a senior political analyst.
Special Report includes the Political Grapevine, a two-minute segment plugging political tidbits and Beltway gossip. The program is based on correspondent-driven live reports from Washington and ends with a roundtable discussion from a balanced panel of journalists. Baier is winning high ratings and high marks for his handling of the show.
I would say Bret Baier is probably one of the best people doing that kind of newscast at any of the cable operations. Hes friendly; hes relaxed but also engaging and objective, said Fordham University media professor Paul Levinson, a new media expert. CNNs main problem is theyre too boring. Wolf Blitzer is great, but you wouldnt call him engaged. MSNBCs main problem is that they dont pretend in any way to be objective [in the newscast]: Theyre highly progressive.
That seems to be what viewers think, as well.
Already Baiers ratings have surpassed Humes from the final year of his decadelong run on the show. This month, Baier has averaged about 2.1 million viewers per night, according to Nielsen ratings. In December 2008, Hume averaged 1.6 million viewers each night.
Baier is also beating the competition.
Nielsen numbers show Special Reports overall viewership is up 28 percent this December compared with last December, while competing programs that air at the same time The Situation Room on CNN and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (now The Ed Show) on MSNBC fell by 37 and 18 percent, respectively. The Situation Room averaged about 597,000 viewers this month, while The Ed Show averaged about 491,000 viewers.
I want to continue this success, Baier said. Brit laid the foundation and built the beginning of the house, and were building it up. Wed really like to make it a mansion. Our goal is to make it the premier news show, period.
Baier attributes his success to several elements. His 6 p.m. show is part of a killer evening lineup led by Beck, who averaged 2.4 million viewers in third-quarter ratings.
Baier has made subtle changes to the program but not enough to rattle viewers.
The graphics have been upgraded. Baier stands at the beginning of the newscast, and hes increased the number of stories each night, while still making room for longer pieces, especially on health care.
Unlike Hume, who says his default expression tends to be a scowl, Baier often launches his broadcasts with his signature megawatt grin.
Listen, I have fun. Im not faking the smile when Im smiling, and I think over time, my personality comes out more, Baier said. Beck is a tremendous boost to lead us in. He is a rising tide to all ships. Hes definitely provided a boost at 5 p.m., but we also hold it. ... Id say last on that list of things is my presentation. The show is news-driven. Not me-driven.
It took him months to convince himself that his name wasnt going to disappear from the program graphic. He still gets nervous at about 4 p.m., when the previous nights ratings are delivered to his inbox. He describes it as an I wonder if people liked me today feeling.
Other television notables describe him as a man who is genuinely warm a rarity in the cutthroat world of broadcasters.
He is one of those guys who goes out of his way to be nice to everybody. Hes the guy who comes up at parties and introduces himself, said one former anchor.
His younger brother Tim Baier, a sportscaster in North Carolina, knows Bret as the older brother who once dumped Easter eggs into his basket to help him win an Easter egg hunt.
Baier spends early Saturday mornings playing a round of golf at Congressional Country Club. His Ralph Lauren-adorned home was recently featured in The Washington Post. He and his family recently gave $1 million to Childrens National Medical Center, the hospital that has helped care for his young son, who was born with life-threatening heart defects but is now a bubbly toddler.
When hes not spending time with the family, Baier links up with his buddies: Dave Tafuri, a partner at Patton Boggs; RepEquity president Tripp Donnelly and Tom Davidson, co-founder of EverFi. The trio can often be found chowing down in Cafe Milano or Capital Grille.
Still, Baiers transition has not been entirely seamless.
While Fox News still has plenty of access to White House officials, its a much different scene compared with Baiers previous job as chief White House correspondent, when he landed in-depth interviews with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and had a good relationship with President George W. Bush.
A year after the Inauguration, Baier still has an outstanding request for Obama to appear on Special Report, but relations have been getting warmer over time. Baier recently interviewed Obama senior adviser David Axelrod, and Fox News White House correspondent Major Garrett interviewed Obama overseas.
Weve still had access, Baier said. We havent had as many interviews with the president or senior officials, but weve had a ton of access. ... There really havent been times when we havent gotten an answer. Even in the darkest days of the White House-Fox [News] whatever it was, we still had access.
Baier got his start with Fox by starting the networks Atlanta bureau in 1998. On Sept. 11, 2001, he drove directly from Georgia to the Pentagon, giving reports about the attack from the nearby Chevron station. He never returned to Atlanta and spent the next five years covering the Pentagon and traveling with troops in war zones.
Since then, Baier is never on the air without a small American flag pinned to his lapel, sending assistants scurrying to retrieve it minutes before he goes on if he doesnt have it.
Ive spent a lot of time embedded with Special Ops. I saw the sacrifice they go through, said Baier, who noted that Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes once told him that he could be fair, balanced and critical of the administration, but its still OK to want the U.S. to win.
Theres another victory Baier is counting on.
The anchor keeps an exact count of how many days its been since his 2-year-old son, Paul, endured his first open-heart surgery.
Born with serious heart defects, Paul has undergone a second open-heart procedure, a stomach surgery and three angioplasties. A fourth angioplasty is scheduled in the spring.
Baiers office is covered with photos of his boy, which he proudly shows off to visitors. He recalls how he returned home recently to his son marching around the house, practicing his fathers show opener: Bret Baier. Bret Baier. Bret Baier.
While Pauls struggles are barely noticeable now, he faces yet another open-heart surgery in the next three to four years a battle Baier and his wife, Amy, are already bracing for.
Its always difficult to think about, Baier says. This really does affect who I am. When you face adversity with one of your children, it does affect how you look at things. Perhaps the little things stay little. You look at the big picture much more, and every time you come home, you hang your work at the door.
P.S. Bill O'Reilly is not a Conservative.
I like Bret a lot. He’s doing a FINE job. I also like the fact that he doesn’t reveal his ‘politics’ and is a very fair moderator in discussions.
Bret Baier is a good man... an excellent pick.
You’re spot on... BO is NOT a conservative.
Good on 'ya, Mr. Baier.
You're right. He's an Independent.
“P.S. Bill O’Reilly is not a Conservative. “
BOR got ticked off last night when Ingram busted him for having a crush on the first wookie for being pleasant to him at the WH xmas party. Little does he know that she spit in his punch at the xmas party.
I agree, jazusamo. I love Bret and Brit! :o)
Agreed, I wondered when Brit picked him but he’s has done a good job. Hume is one of if not the best, he knew Bret could do it I suppose.
I was even fortunate enough to get his photo at the Republican Convention in ‘08.
“Already Baiers ratings have surpassed Humes from the final year of his decadelong run on the show”.
I like Baier but I think Charles Krauthammer, Fred Barnes and the others are a more important part of the ratings rise.
My husband and I noticed that as well! (It was hard NOT to notice) BOR was ticked off big time.
It's all about Bill lately... no matter what the topic, he always turns the conversation back to himself. He's getting as bad as Whorealdo...
P.S. Bill O’Reilly is not a Conservative
That’s why I NEVER watch him any more
There will never be another Brit Hume, but with Baier at the wheel this is still one of the three Fox News shows worth watching (Fox News Sunday and Neal Cavuto being the other two).
When Shep spent a whole afternoon in panic mode as the "balloon boy" story was unfolding, without even a molecule of skepticism about this obvious hoax, it was the last straw for me.
FNC channel is switched off at my house at 7PM eastern every night, not to return until Cavuto time the next day.
BOR finally got even with the rich girls that he went to
high school with.
Charles is great. I wish he had his own show.
Agree, try to tune into the “Fox Allstars”, but appreciate Bret’s sincerity and kindness. Methinks he may be liberal, but what the hay, he’s a “likeable lib”.
I still miss Brit, but we love Bret!
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