Former Fox News Host Eric Bolling Meets With Trump Over Opioid Epidemic

Eric Bolling - 2017 The Five - Getty - H 2018
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The host says that Trump has been a regular caller and well-wisher since his son died Sept. 8, the same day that his separation from Fox News was announced.

On Tuesday afternoon, former Fox News host Eric Bolling met in the White House with President Trump to discuss the opioid epidemic, an issue that has taken on a personal resonance for him since the death of his only son from an accidental overdose in early September.

Bolling tells The Hollywood Reporter that he had a lengthy conversation with the president about the issue, which he said he's discussed on phone calls and "several" previous visits with Trump in the White House. He also met with counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, who has been tapped to lead the White House's response to the epidemic.

"Eric has committed to help the president and his administration as we endeavor to bend the curve and destroy this 'crisis next door,'" Conway said in part in a statement to THR. She said that Bolling's "ability to connect and communicate with people on a range of issues is well-known."

Bolling says he was "very happy to hear" that Trump is focused on the issue, which he says the White House is "stepping up" efforts to combat, including a new initiative involving the U.S. surgeon general that's slated to be announced in the coming days. He says he's convinced that Trump is well-informed on the supply side of the opioid issue. (The administration has gotten some flak for not taking more tangible steps to address the problem.)

"I have offered him 100 percent of my availability, whatever he needs me to do," Bolling said last week. After his Tuesday meeting, Bolling said, "They're going to be using me to help develop some of these awareness initiatives."

Bolling says that Trump has called him "more times than you can count on one hand" and has shown him "compassion and empathy" since the death of his son, 19-year-old Eric Chase, from an overdose stemming from his ingestion of a pill laced with fentanyl. "He's been amazing," he says of Trump.

Bolling says the president called him on Thanksgiving, right as he and his wife were about to sit down to dinner with an empty chair that would have been for their son. "The timing was poetic," he says.

"There's nothing in it for him," Bolling adds of Trump's calls and well-wishes. "I'm not on air. I'm literally just a friend. He cares. He cares about a man who loses his son." (Bolling, who frequently defended Trump on air at Fox News, says he has known the president for 13 or 14 years.)

Bolling's son died a few hours after Fox News announced that Bolling had "amicably" left the network following a monthlong suspension and investigation conducted by an outside law firm. The separation was set in motion by an Aug. 4 article in HuffPost, which relied on 14 sources to report that he was accused of sending "an unsolicited photo of male genitalia via text message to at least two colleagues at Fox Business and one colleague at Fox News." Bolling's lawyer denied the charges at the time and said his client "does not believe" he sent the images. Bolling threatened to sue the author of the story, Yashar Ali, but has not yet done so.

Fox News, in a Sept. 8 statement, thanked Bolling for his "10 years of service." He told THR that the announcement followed weeks of discussions with the network, and says he was satisfied with the negotiated separation.

On the night of the announcement, Bolling took his wife out to a nice dinner. "We were looking forward to the next step in my career, in our lives together," he says. On the car ride home from dinner, Bolling says he got a call from a man who, panicked, told him to call a female associate of his son's. She broke the news of his son's death. "I call her, and she's crying, and I'm thinking for some reason I just went right to, 'Is he alive?' She said, 'No.'"

In the four and half months since his son's death, Bolling says he's been buoyed by frequent calls from some of his contemporaries in the news business. Bolling says that Sean Hannity, his former colleague, and MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, who is on the other end of the political spectrum, "have checked in with [him] constantly, constantly." CNN's Don Lemon and Van Jones have also called Bolling often to see how he's doing. And, he says that onetime Fox News star Megyn Kelly has also reached out. Scarborough, he says, put in a call when he and his wife were at a particularly low point in the grieving process. "These people have found a way to reach out, and it's been amazing," he says.

Eric Chase Bolling's cause of death was confirmed as an accidental overdose in a coroner's report released in late October. On Sept. 9, a day after his death, TMZ reported that Bolling's son was distraught by his father's exodus from Fox News and had committed suicide. Bolling says the false report, which was later corrected, was "so hurtful and harming and so detrimental" to him and his wife, Adrienne.

Bolling conveyed that his son, a second-year student at the University of Colorado, was a social butterfly who planned to join a fraternity. "I'll never forget," he says. "I said, 'Eric, you've got to really be careful not to get involved in things that can kill you, that can hurt you, the harder drugs. ... He said, 'Dad, I got this.' It was one of the last times we had that discussion." He says he wonders now whether he should have taken his son's word for it.

In recent weeks and months, Bolling has reemerged and used his Twitter profile as a "clearinghouse" for personal stories about the devastating effects of opioid abuse. (Ever the political gladiator, he's also gotten in some partisan jabs here and there.)

"It's not easy," he says. "Half the time I'm typing on Twitter there are tears in my eyes."

Bolling says that he's had conversations with interested parties about a potential return to media, but nothing is formally in the works. Some companies are likely to be resistant considering the circumstances that led to his departure from Fox News.

Says Bolling, "I'll let that path be lighted for me, and I'll certainly take that path, whether it's back in the media world or whether it's the opioid awareness world."