Fox News’ opinion hosts – Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham – drive many of the conversations around that network’s programming. This week, that feat might just be accomplished by the news side’s Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum.
Over the course of four days this week, the duo will lead a town hall with Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg; anchor the network’s coverage of Super Tuesday; and then present another town hall with President Donald Trump, in a rare instance these days of the president taking part in an interview with someone other than Fox News’ opinion personnel. Both anchors also lead an hour each weeknight, with Baier on “Special Report” at 6 p.m. and MacCallum on “The Story” at 7 p.m.
“There’s not much else that we can really fit in,” says MacCallum, in a recent interview.
The duo may be able to get something done for Fox News more important than satisfying the die-hard fans who tune in to watch three primetime hours each weeknight. By luring top Democrats to its news shows, Fox News is likely to draw a broader audience of viewers, and thus work to make good on a vow to advertisers in place since 2019. In March of last year, Fox News kicked off an effort to show that the network brings viewers from many political persuasions and isn’t only for conservatives.
“If you do a breakdown of our audience, there are a ton of independents. There are a lot of Democrats, and, obviously, a lot of Republicans,” says Baier, in an interview. “You can’t deny, really, in order to run in the general election, you are going to have to talk to a lot of these groups.” After recently doing town halls with Senator Amy Klobuchar, and former Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg, Baier says Fox News personnel “have hopes for the final [DNC] debate, but we haven’t gotten word from the Democrats on that.”
“”The DNC is committed to expanding the electorate and reaching all voters — that is why we make it a priority to talk to a wide range of media, including Fox, where the DNC gives interviews regularly,” says Adrienne Watson, the DNC’s Deputy Communications Director & War Room Director. “The decision on not having a Fox debate still stands.”
The Baier-and-MacCallum team is a relatively new one. For several years, Baier and Megyn Kelly tackled many of the network’s big political news events. MacCallum, however, has gained a wider profile after moving to her own hour in 2017 after co-anchoring the Fox News daytime staple “America’s Newsroom” for seven years. “I just think if you watch our shows you come away with a good grasp of what’s going on that day,” says McCallum.
All the news networks are placing more emphasis on special programming, whether it come in the form of town halls, daytime coverage of Congressional hearings, or debates. In an intense cycle of interest in news of politics, the broadcasts often deliver bigger ratings and can serve as a means of wooing less-fervent viewers to other parts of the network’s schedule. Fox News’ recent town hall with Senator Klobuchar, for example, drew overall viewership that was 10% higher than a similar event Fox News held with her in May of 2019. Viewership for the event in the key advertiser demographic, people between 25 and 54, was up nearly 50% over the prior event, according to Nielsen.
MacCallum and Baier will need to present more than just bare-bones information over the next few days. Fox News is counting on them to deliver viral moments and keep a complex series of broadcasts from getting out of hand. Super Tuesday alone can be a harrowing news experience. “You have to know how each one of the states breaks down, and the flow of the night goes from all the moving parts and the projections,” says Baier. “It’s sort of very fluid and if election night, we say, is kind of our Super Bowl, this would be kind of the divisional championship.”
The Trump town hall might seem daunting. Trump’s appearance with MacCallum and Baier in the event, held in Scranton, PA., will be his first with her since April of 2017 and his first with him since June of 2018. “I think it’s great for him to talk to the folks on our news side,” says MacCallum. “We have independent viewers. We have viewers who are persuadable. I think the White House wants to make sure he speaks to them.”
Fox News’ opinion personnel have long made known their support for Trump, but Baier cautions he has a different task at hand. “It’s going to be the same format as the town halls with the Democrats – and the same timing and the same tough but fair questions,” he says.
In this news cycle, neither anchor is likely to have much chance for a pause. “I’ll rest later,” says Baier