Ed Henry Walks the Line Between News and Opinion at Fox News

Ed Henry -Fox News chief national correspondent- Getty - H 2019
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As the network's news wing (led until recently by Shepard Smith) and opinion wing clash, Henry regularly does double duty.

If anyone embodies the occasionally hard-to-define line between the news and opinion sides at Fox News, it's Ed Henry.

Henry, the former president of the White House Correspondents' Association, is the network's chief national correspondent. He also frequently co-hosts the morning opinion show Fox & Friends Weekend, sharing a couch with the openly pro-Trump Pete Hegseth.

Even the president of the United States seems to be whipsawed by Henry's dual roles at the network, praising him when his talk show chatter is favorable to his administration and lambasting him when his reporter side emerges.

On Sunday, Sept. 29, Henry pressed opinion colleague Mark Levin on the president's actions toward Ukraine, asking: "Are you OK with a president asking his counterpart — this is a simple yes or no — to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son?"

Trump was so angered by Henry's questioning that he retweeted more than two dozen Twitter users who had insulted the anchor, including one who called Henry a "lying shit head." (Earlier in the month, the president had praised Henry's decision to donate part of his liver to his sister as "a wonderful thing to do!")

On an Oct. 4 appearance on Fox & Friends, Henry seemed to change his tune about Trump and Ukraine when offering commentary. “He has been honest and transparent publicly about how he wants this investigated. And, by the way, it's put a spotlight on Joe and Hunter Biden in a way that the Democrats didn't want," Henry said.

The Hollywood Reporter spoke with eight of Henry's current and former colleagues, some of whom expressed reservations about him juggling both news and opinion duties at Fox. "TV anchors should not host talk shows on Fox News," one says. "News anchor people should not be going on the talk shows as a lead person because they are now on the entertainment, opinion side."

"It's got to be confusing for viewers," a Fox News insider of many years says.

Henry was firmly on the news side of things when he left CNN in 2011 to join Fox as the network's chief White House correspondent. He lost that prestigious title after talking a nearly four-month leave of absence in 2016 due to "personal issues," returning to the network after a marital infidelity scandal to do "general assignment reporting."

But a former Henry colleague says that there isn't a definitive divide between news and opinion at Fox for Henry to cross: "There is no line. There are no hard-and-fast rules. There is no journalism manual that people abide by. It doesn’t exist."

An executive who knows Henry agrees, adding that things have changed since the departure of Roger Ailes. "Even in the Roger days, there was a discernible difference between the news and opinion people," the executive says. "It's much fuzzier today."

"I think all cable news networks are making a big mistake — or already have made a big mistake — of blurring the line between news and opinion," says former Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren. "This is not just Ed Henry and Fox. It is all three major cable networks. Almost all don’t even try to hide their opinions."

Setting aside a discussion of silos, the longtime Fox News insider says Henry has successfully demonstrated his versatility. "He's able to put one hat on and be that person, and he puts another hat on and I think he's quite fair in his reporting," the person says. "It's almost like a new breed."

"When he's Ed Henry, the reporter, he's doing a really good job," the executive who knows Henry says. "His interviews are good and his stories are good. But being in the stew of Fox & Friends, I don't know if the overall product is different or if anyone is performing differently."

Levin, the conservative commentator who tussled with Henry on Fox & Friends Weekend, thinks highly of him. “I like Ed and do think he’s fair," he says in a statement to THR. "I just needed to correct him. It happens.”

With Shepard Smith's recent departure, Henry is considered a possible successor in the afternoon. He is expected to get a turn hosting the Fox News Reporting show that will replace Shepard Smith Reporting until the network finds a permanent host. (Chief breaking news correspondent Trace Gallagher has hosted the show this week.)

"I think it will be very hard to fill Shep’s shoes," a former colleague says. "But if it’s Henry, at least he has a history of asking some tough questions of some administration officials. That might be the best shot at some semblance of impartiality they can hope for."

Henry, who worked for the Roll Call newspaper before joining CNN, has a long list of journalism awards to his name — including the Merriman Smith Award for broadcast journalism earlier this year for his tough interview with Scott Pruitt — that have impressed Fox News management and put him in the mix with the heavily decorated Smith.

His pivot also mirrors what former Fox News journalists say is a shift away from hard news. "You see fewer reporters on air through the day and more people talking and guests," the network insider says. (The network strongly denies that it is less committed to journalism, and has said that Smith will be replaced by a straight-news journalist.)

At the end of the day, those who know Henry say he's ambitious and likely saw in Fox & Friends Weekend — and other shows — an opportunity to expand his screen time beyond doing just reporting hits. "It's air time," one says. "It's just more oxygen."