Looking back on 25 years of the Fox News Channel, anchor Jon Scott remembers an interview with Henry Kissinger and a surprising question the world-famous secretary of state asked.
Steve Doocy recalls the network’s coverage of 9/11 and how, just before the planes hit, he was conducting an interview with Mr. Peanut on a street in New York.
And Lauren Green has interviewed religious leaders across the world, but especially enjoyed reporting on an Amsterdam man who had built a replica of Noah’s ark.
Doocy, Scott, Green and Sean Hannity are among Fox News personalities who have been with the network since it first signed on at 6 a.m. on Oct. 7, 1996. Not everyone on that first team was as convinced of the network’s potential for success as its then-CEO Roger Ailes.
Scott had his moments of wondering if he had done the right thing by leaving a high-profile position at NBC to sign on with Fox, and media critics were skeptical that the market could bear three cable news stations.
“The latest entry in the all-the-news-all-the-time trade offers 24 hours of reports, features, interviews, analysis, promos and commercials. If that sounds a lot like what the pioneering CNN and the imitative MSNBC offer, well, sure,” the late Walter Goodman, media critic for The New York Times, wrote in a review published three days after Fox’s debut.
Similarly uninspired, a critic for USA Today called the new venture “handsome, but humdrum.”
Today’s ratings king began with 17 million subscribers, “less than one-fifth of the nation’s TV households,” Scott Collins wrote in his 2004 book “Crazy Like a Fox.”
These days, however, it’s Fox that roars, and CNN and MSNBC that labor to keep up.
Here, in their own words, are the reflections of four Fox personalities who are among those who have been with the network from the start. The interviews have been edited for clarity and length.
Jon Scott, anchor, ‘Fox Report’
“I was one of the original correspondents at ‘Dateline NBC’ when Fox hired me away.
“They were relaunching ‘A Current Affair,’ which had fallen on hard times, and they hired me to anchor the show. So I was under a Fox contract when it was announced that Fox would be starting this new news channel, and they wanted to talk to me.
“I was very apprehensive. I did not have the vision. CNN had a 15-year head start, and when I was at ‘Dateline,’ people were coming around the building and looking for people to join MSNBC. At the time, I said, “What is it?” and nobody could explain it. At the time, MS(NBC) was going to be this hybrid of television and the computer, and for their first 10 years on the air, that was part of their problem.
“But the people who founded Fox had a very clear vision of what they wanted it to be, and even though they were new to the game, there was all this optimism and a real belief in the mission.
“I had been to the mountaintop. ‘Dateline NBC’ was the No. 1 news magazine, aside from ‘60 Minutes,’ and at the time, NBC was the No. 1 network. I came to Fox and it was put together so quickly that we didn’t have a lot of experienced people, and we didn’t have a lot of resources, frankly. Those first few months, I thought this was a terrible mistake. Now, 25 years later, I’m glad I didn’t do something that I would regret.
“Our first year, it was like doing television in a vacuum, because we weren’t on the air in Manhattan. You couldn’t call up your friends and say watch me today. Even in local news, at least your mom and dad could watch you. You couldn’t do that here.
“One of my earliest memories is when I was asked to do an interview with (former Secretary of State) Henry Kissinger. It was heavily promoted, and 1 p.m. came, and I was in the chair, and Henry Kissinger wasn’t in the building. He’d been caught in traffic. We had nothing to go to. We had no PSAs. I had to vamp for 15 minutes; I dragged out everything from my memory from Mr. Kettner’s American government class in high school.
“It turned out, Kissinger had been attending a funeral and he did make it for the second part of the interview. I do remember when it was all over, and the cameras had turned off, he leaned forward and said in that inimitable German accent, ‘Does this suit look all right on television?’
“Here’s this man who has literally changed world history, dined with kings and consulted with presidents and he’s asking me if his funeral suit looked OK on TV. It was fine. It was a nice navy suit; nothing flashy about it.
“The first indication I had that we would be successful was the first vacation I took. My family all piled in the minivan and drove all night to get to to High Point, North Carolina. And I came out of the motel room early and went stumbling to the lobby looking for coffee, and a man looked up at me and said, ‘Fox News!’
“At that point, nobody in Manhattan knew who were were. I just wish I’d been more optimistic when we started.”
Lauren Green, religion correspondent
“Fox was pretty raw back in 1996; we were not even on in New York City.
“I was the first on-air person hired. I remember that interview to this day. I remember thinking Fox was nothing; I would go in and have a nice interview, a nice chat, but I’m never going to take a job at Fox, because who wants to work for cable? This was the view back then. If you worked for cable, it was like ‘what’s wrong with you?’ But I was so impressed with what they were building here.
“And another thing — this may be like a non sequitur — but ‘Independence Day’ was a Twentieth Century Fox movie, and I thought if they can do this movie, they can do news, too.
“I was hired as an anchor and to cover the arts, because I have a music background. I was a weekend anchor and reporter out of Chicago at the time, and it seemed better to be working in New York because of its arts focus. I’m from Minnesota and have a degree in piano, but also have a master’s in journalism. The two really worked together.
“The history of music is really tied to the Catholic Church, so I had a great deal of knowledge about religious history, church history. And I was always a person of faith, as well.
“A lot of interviews I’ve done for documentaries really stand out because they were interviews that really got to the depth of faith, to ferret out what people really believe. I interviewed a lovely man in Amsterdam who had built a replica of Noah’s ark, and I remember asking him, ‘Why would you build a replica of Noah’s ark in the middle of Amsterdam?’ and he said, ‘Look around. We live in heaven. And people have forgotten God.’
“So, he built it to remind people that God was always there, and to be an education to them, and I thought that was so interesting. He was saying that people began to worship the creation and forgot the creator. And I thought that was really profound.
“There was a time I considered moving on. This business is very transitory. In fact, I’d gotten some interest from CBS here in New York, but I was working on my book (‘Lighthouse Faith’) and I thought Fox would appreciate the book more than CBS would.
“And I have never once thought I made a mistake.
“Fox, I think, showed the world that news could be glamorous. I don’t mean glamorous in terms of glitz, but that it could be interesting. Fox also showed the world that there was another opinion out there that people were discounting; most mainstream media discounted the ‘weird’ people out there who think that abortion is wrong.
“I remember reading in a paper in 1996 that 80% of journalists working in news were abortion-rights supporters, and I thought, well, that’s quite skewed from the general public. How does that impact what you put in the news? I thought that was not right. Why would the people in charge of disseminating news be so skewed? Fox showed that there are a lot of people who don’t believe what a lot of journalists believe, and they’ve never had a voice, and I think Fox gave them that voice.”
Steve Doocy, co-host, ‘Fox & Friends’
“I was the last person person hired of the on-air crew; they had one job left, and it was the weather guy. They said, ‘Have you ever done the weather?’ and I said, yes, I did it in college in Topeka. They said, ‘Want to do it again? It will lead to other stuff if it all works out.’
“In the very beginning, the morning show started at 7 a.m. and ran until 9 a.m., and it was what they referred to as a news wheel. It just kept going around; every 15 minutes you would do the news again. I did the weather once every 15 minutes. That was a lot of weather.
“Then we had segments called ‘Fox On.’ These were about different topics such as religion or politics; we even had one on pets. One day, I was about to do a ‘Fox On’ — I think it probably “Fox On” consumers — and the producer gets in my ear one minute before I was about to go on and says, ‘Steve, do you know anything about Bosnia?’
“‘I said, I know generally where it is. Why?’ And he says, ‘In 20 seconds, you’re going to talk to Jamie Rubin at the State Department about Bosnia.’
“And I go, ‘Why? Why are we talking about Bosnia as a topic?’ and he said, ‘I don’t know, but we’ve booked him, and you’re going to be talking to him in five seconds.’
“So I said, ‘Jamie, what is going on today?’ and I talked to him for 20 minutes, and it was perfectly fine. But in the beginning, when we were trying to figure out how things would go, every once in a while there would be a hiccup.
“I think I am proudest of the work we did on 9/11. We were there when the first airplane hit the tower. I was outside; I had just completed an interview with Mr. Peanut, the guy from Planters, which is a complicated interview, because he doesn’t talk. I asked a couple of questions, and he did a little jaunty thing with his arms and legs. And as I’m walking in, they told me an airplane hit the World Trade Center. It was just a historic moment. And we were on the air when the first Americans went into Baghdad; nobody else was showing that.
“Our political coverage is great. We’ve had some epic moments on the show. But then again, it’s cool to meet people you grew up watching.
“We had Captain Kangaroo on, and he did the weather with me; this is so cool, the guy who taught me my numbers, I’m doing numbers with him. And we had Buffalo Bob (Smith) on; he was famous for saying ‘Howdy Doody’ and and when he came out, he said, ‘Howdy Doocy.’ And this was also a treat: We had Davy Jones from The Monkees on, and I sang ‘I’m a Believer’ with him. I didn’t sound good, but it was great.
“In the beginning, the producers said, ‘Here’s what we’re doing. We are going to tell both sides of the story.’
“I said, ‘Well, that’s normal.’ And he said, ‘You have no idea.’
“Fox has become a place where you are able to hear mainstream ideas that you do not hear much on the other channels. Whenever I go down to Florida, or I’m traveling, i always hear people say, ‘Hey, Steve, thank you for telling the other side of the story.’”
Sean Hannity, host, ‘Hannity’
“My first job at Fox was hosting ‘Hannity & Colmes’ with Alan Colmes. Twenty-five years later, I am still hosting that time slot (7 p.m. MDT). The biggest challenge in those first few months was learning how to read the prompter. I was a radio guy, not a TV guy.
“It’s hard to pinpoint one highlight, but some of the best interviews or toughest have been the ones with Gold Star families (those who have lost an immediate family member through conflict in military service), and those who have lost loved ones or children like Horace Lorenzo Anderson. (Anderson, 19, was killed during protests in Seattle in 2020).
“If Fox News Channel had not succeeded, I guess I would just be doing radio. I love what I do and don’t see myself slowing down anytime soon. It’s an honor to do what I do every day, and that passion from day one has never left me.”