Margaret Brennan returns as moderator of CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday after a two-month maternity leave that gave her greater perspective on how viewers take in information delivered via television news.
Brennan watched the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination hearings in September with her infant son at her side. But she also unplugged from the hyperactive D.C. news cycle after giving birth to Eamon Brennan Yakub on Sept. 11. Following the volatile Kavanaugh story only through news coverage, rather than her own reporting, gave her a better sense of how viewers receive the broadcasts assembled by CBS News and other outlets.
“Sitting and watching the Kavanaugh hearings while breast-feeding my son, and watching them as someone not participating in the coverage — you get a different sense of things,” Brennan told Variety. “When you’re able to step back and see the big picture and not necessarily know all the nitty-gritty details — it gives you a different impression of what’s going on, sometimes. It was different perspective for me to see how the rest of the country is consuming the news we’re trying to process for them.”
The entry into parenthood has also given Brennan renewed appreciation for the fortitude of mothers who work outside the home, and for paid family leave policies.
“My estimation of women has gone through the roof just be seeing how much it takes for me to get out of the house in the morning,” she said. “It’s amazing that the U.S. is the only country in the world that doesn’t mandate employers pay for family leave.”
Of the big stories that transpired during her leave, Brennan cited the shocking Jamal Khashoggi murder case as one that she missed covering. In addition to “Face the Nation,” Brennan is CBS News’ chief foreign affairs correspondent.
“That’s still hovering out there and it is unresolved as to what this might mean for our relationship with the kingdom (of Saudi Arabia,” she said. She’s getting back to the desk just in time to cover President Donald Trump’s trip to Paris to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
“The President is going to Paris to celebrate what is possible when there are alliances in the world,” Brennan said. “Our alliances are somewhat fractured now. I think there’s an interesting irony there.”
Brennan has a power-hitter lineup for her first show back: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and senators Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham.
Like many moms returning from leave, Brennan admits she’s “still figuring out my two roles now of mom and moderator” and notes that “there’s only so much easing back into it with live television.” She credits longtime “Face the Nation” exec producer Mary Hager and John Dickerson, the “CBS This Morning” anchor who filled in for her, with maintaining a strong program in her absence. Brennan took the helm of “Face the Nation” in February, after Dickerson was moved from the Sunday morning mainstay to “CBS This Morning” in the wake of Charle Rose’s hasty departure amid a flood of sexual harassment allegations.
“I knew the show was in good hands with Mary Hager and John,” she said.
Brennan said motherhood has also given her a heightened awareness of the magnitude of political and policy decisions that can change the course of history.
“I do feel this job is important right now in terms of helping to inform the public and highlight through a lot of the noise what they should be digesting as country in terms of what’s happening in Washington,” she said. “Now that I have a child growing up in this world who has a stake in it, it has only made me feel the weight of the need to be reflective in the conversations we have each week.”