Neil Cavuto went on TV a few days ago and said something that might make regular devotees of the Fox News empire blanch.
“I know some admire a president who speaks his mind, but some of your tweets alone are making the people you need run for cover,” Cavuto said to President Donald Trump during a recent broadcast of his regular Fox News Channel program, “Your World.” He also said: “It’s not that some of your ideas aren’t sound — they are,” and then continued: “It’s that, increasingly, this erratic behavior is making me wonder whether you are.”
Cavuto says he knows he will be called things like “never Trumper” or “globalist,” but he’s only doing the same thing he’s done for more than 20 years. “I look at it through the prism of the business nerd,” he says in a recent interview while on set preparing for his Fox Business Network program, the two-hour “Cavuto: Coast to Coast.” He would tell President Trump that many of his actions are likely to impede much of what he wants to accomplish. “He has a lot of good ideas and a lot of sound programs,” says Cavuto, “but there’s no way in heck any of that comes to fruition if he keeps pulling these stunts.”
Some of these sentiments may sound surprising coming from someone who has held forth on Fox News Channel since its earliest days – the network’s best-known programs tend to lean conservative. But Cavuto says he doesn’t look at things from the left or the right, just in terms of how they might affect people financially. “The way business tends to work is with a pragmatic approach,” he says.
Cavuto has brought that view to Wall Street aficionados for more than 30 years through stints at PBS’ “Nightly Business Report” and CNBC. He was present during the infamous stock market crash of 1987 and he’s still following dynamics as the market hits new highs. At Fox, he says, he strives to broaden the aperture. In recent months, that philosophy has helped Fox Business Network lure more viewers overall to its programs during business hours – from the 9:30 a.m. opening bell at the stock market to 5 p.m., according to Nielsen. CNBC wins more eyeballs in primetime, where it has found success with reality series about entrepreneurs, as well as over a 24-hour total day window.
“We have a good shot at connecting with brokers and bankers, and I love them, but going to the floor of the New York Stock Exchange is not what it was one, two, three decades ago. It was jam-packed. It’s tumbleweeds by comparison,” notes Cavuto, who also serves as a supervisor of business coverage across Fox News and Fox Business. He wants to keep the financial audience while attracting people who are not heavily invested in the stock market – if at all. “I don’t think the business audience needs to be just business people,” he says. “If you get into issues like real estate, the cost of college, what’s going on in Washington – far more people pay taxes than own stocks.”
In the past, Cavuto recalls, on-air colleagues might call a financial professional after a TV appearance to see if they sounded smart. “I would call my wife,” he says. “I felt I would much rather connect with her.”
Cavuto does much of his Fox Business show on the fly. “Neil is unscripted,” says Ralph Giordano, executive producer of “Coast to Coast.” “Every time you write something up, it’s immediately old. News always changes.” The approach leaves the host and staff free to veer quickly to breaking details and forces Cavuto to rely on his experience. It’s something he says TV-news viewers demand more of as they get most of their stock quotes and breaking-news headlines on smartphones and mobile screens.
Cavuto and his staff are proud of a March “Coast to Coast” interview the host conducted with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, says Giordano. During a conversation in Washington, D.C., Mnuchin suggested the administration could enact tax reforms by August. “It was our news,” says Giordano. “A big power broker made it to us. Since then, we’ve been going back to that and saying, ‘What happened in August? People are waiting for the tax cuts. Where are they?’”
Cavuto’s tenure is all the more remarkable given that he has beaten some significant health issues, and continues to grapple with another. He has long been open about the fact that he deals with effects from multiple sclerosis, and he emerged victorious years ago from a battle with cancer. Last year, he found he needed triple-bypass surgery for his heart, requiring some time off the air.
“The heart thing threw me for a loop, I have to admit,” Cavuto says. The various ailments “do teach you that you shouldn’t get ahead of yourself. You should not start to think that everything is guaranteed.”
He is likely to question the administration’s agenda again if he feels it makes for bad business. “They only agenda I have,” says Cavuto, “is to just give people something they are not getting elsewhere.”