First Mover: Ed Henry

CNN’s former White House correspondent on his move to Fox News, and allegations of bias at the network

Why did you leave CNN after seven years to join Fox?

I loved just about every minute of CNN. I was turning 40 on July 20, my contract was up, and I needed a change. I had been talking to Fox for a time. They expressed an interest and I expressed an interest and we had some conversations. There were other networks I was talking to. It was time for the next phase.

So your move to Fox had nothing to do with calling for Fox to get Helen Thomas’ seat in the White House briefing room last year?

I wish it were that easy. But in fact, it had nothing to do with it. Fox stepped aside for CNN in 2007, so once something opened up, Fox was next in line. That was more than a year before my contract was up. I thought it was the right thing to do. And I still think it was.

Were you concerned about moving to a news organization that has a reputation for a conservative bias?

I know what people say about Fox and about what they say is a tilt to the right. Meanwhile, the reporters I know, like Bret Baier, are right down the middle and are tough on everybody.

Any challenge in preserving your reputation as a straight shooter since moving to Fox?

I asked tough questions of the Bush White House when I was at CNN. I asked tough questions of the Obama White House when I was at CNN and nobody freaked out. I start asking tough questions at Fox and everybody freaked out. If I was a shrinking violet at CNN and was meekly sitting in the corner and occasionally raising my hand and then went to Fox and on Day 2 started asking really tough questions, I think the case would be stronger that I had some sort of bias. I was asking tough questions at CNN, I’ll be asking tough questions at Fox.

No one at Fox is telling you to ask one question or make certain talking points?

Absolutely not. My first day at Fox, President Obama gave a prime-time address to the nation. That would have been a great chance for Roger Ailes or someone to say, “Hey, Ed, there is going to be a lot of people watching tonight, maybe you should hit Obama on this or that.” I didn’t get a phone call from anyone. I didn’t get an email from anyone. But what I did get was, we want you to be front and center tonight. I was on with Bret Baier, not Sean Hannity or some of the opinion anchors we have. Next morning ratings came out, and Fox had about 4 million viewers. CNN had about 2 million.

It all comes down to ratings . . .

If after you are part of a big story and the scorecard comes in and twice as many people watched you this week as a few weeks ago, I’m not going to lie, it feels pretty good.

You have to have a certain style to attract those viewers. What about your style? How would you describe it?

I’m an old print reporter, just like Brit Hume here at Fox. I started with Jack Anderson, the muckraking newspaper columnist, and he had a certain style. You had to write lively copy and cut to the heart of the story. I’ve heard from Roger [Ailes] and other people at Fox that one of the reasons they wanted to hire me was I have a sincerity that you can’t make up. I’m passionate and that has to come out. I love politics. I love breaking news, I love bringing context to big stories, and you can’t fake that. And I like to have a little bit of fun on air, and that is something Fox does better than anyone else.

Publish date: September 12, 2011 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT