The former Republican governor of Arkansas and presidential candidate is taking his show to Nashville, where he hopes to expand interview segments and host musicians and artists while maintaining many of the elements that kept him on Fox News for nearly seven years. “People who have seen the Fox show are going to be very comfortable, at home and familiar with it,” said Huckabee, in an interview from Jerusalem where he is taping a special for TBN.
The former governor’s Fox News program had political commentary, conversation – and a little music in the form of a house band of network staffers. Melissa Etheridge once came on as a guest in an appearance even Huckabee acknowledged proved a surprise to observers. “She told me she had gotten a lot of negative feedback from her fans for doing my show,” he recalled, but they still managed to find connections. “Despite what people may think, I have strong views, but I just don’t dislike anybody.”
His journey to TBN also spotlights the durability of some of the Fox News formats and personalities. Bill O’Reilly put in two decades as the linchpin of the cable-news network’s lineup, and continues to draw interest with a podcast as well as new appearances with commentator Glenn Beck, after being forced from his home due to the revelation of settlements made to women who alleged sexual harassment. Sinclair Broadcast Group has agreed to pay $3.9 billion for Tribune Broadcasting, sparking speculation that the Maryland buyer, known for backing conservative programming, might like to build a Fox News-type operation on the backs of its local stations.
Huckabee had hopes of returning to Fox News Channel after ending his campaign in February of 2016, but found executives at the 21st Century Fox-owned outlet had other ideas about how to use weekend time. He remains a Fox News contributor under a contract he says lasts for another two years.
When he suggested the idea of taking his program elsewhere, Fox News consented, he said, so long as he didn’t do the program for a direct competitor. TBN, meanwhile considers the show, which will be taped in front of a live studio audience to be “the first of many new developments at our network,” according to a statement from Matt Crouch, the company’s chairman. The company regularly broadcasts programming from pastor Joel Osteen, among other figures.
“This is a big step for them, out of their normal wheelhouse,” said Huckabee. “My show is not going to be a religious show, and it’s intentionally not. The best way to describe it is it’s a show and the host happens to be a person who is unapologetically a Christian, a believer, and it will have a point of view. But not every segment is necessarily going to have some overtone of faith elements.”
Huckabee believes most viewers want content, not confrontation. He maintains his folksier style and willingness to engage with people who may be at odds with his political beliefs is powerful draw in middle America. “My views are certainly conservative and I don’t think anyone would doubt that, but I also have to believe most people in America are not horizontal. They aren’t left-right, liberal-conservative, Democratic-Republican.” Instead, he added, people are more interested in improvements all sides recognize as necessary in schools, health care and infrastructure. “Those are not horizontal issues.”
He also believes he will be able to spend more time with his guests. “One of my frustrations with cable news is it’s often four minutes and move on, four minutes and move on,” he said. He’s clearly going to spend more time with his new employer: Huckabee will host a special taped in Israel that airs on TBN Wednesday evening.