Fox News' Neil Cavuto on Covering Trump, Anchoring 17 Hours a Week (Q&A)
The host, who gives Barack Obama credit when it's due, doesn't want to bother with a Trump interview.
Neil Cavuto is, to some degree, a company man. In his 30-minute conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, the Fox News original mentioned "my Fox bias" multiple times. But he also stands out at the network. As a veteran business journalist who is willing to opine when warranted, he's something of a hybrid of the network's straight-news anchors and opinion hosts. He's broken with some of his news-side colleagues by saying publicly that he's not interested in participating in the bake-off to land an interview with Donald Trump.
Cavuto is also a work-horse. Starting Saturday, Cavuto has a new two-hour show (CAVUTO Live) that will bring his total anchoring time each week to 17 hours — even more than the 15 hours that NBC's Hoda Kotb is putting in every week. Cavuto chatted with THR about the first year of the Trump presidency and the evolution of the network he's worked for since 1996, when it began.
In trying to pin down Trump's economic positions, Cavuto compared himself to Peter Falk's character in Columbo. "I liken my approach to doing my job to that character, where you're scratching your head and saying, 'Well, wait a minute. You said this and now you're doing this.' And I try to get beyond what the others are trying to focus on."
This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Did you pay attention to Wednesday night's Fake News Awards? What'd you think?
I just think they're a little silly. I don't think they're something that's befitting the president of the United States. I can understand his frustration. Even our most popular presidents have had problems with the press ...
There was a dueling event in Washington, D.C., focusing on the First Amendment and coverage of the Trump administration. These events have become sort of a cottage industry during the first year of his presidency, as people have been talking more about the freedom of the press.
I will say that whatever distaste many in the media might have for the president, they've got to be careful, too. You know, presidents will bristle at critical coverage, but that doesn't mean you need to bristle back 24/7. You can be above the fray by just calling it as you see it. We've done the same with the president — we commended him on some good things and we call him on bad things. I think fair is fair. So the media shouldn't get all haughty and holier-than-thou either, but nor does that justify the leader of the free world getting petty.
Where is the line between covering the president aggressively and reporters "going over their skis," as some, including [Fox News anchor] Bret Baier and [Fox News executive] Jay Wallace, have called it?
Well, I think it's in looking at what's going on. It doesn't have to be all negative all the time, nor does it have to be all positive all the time. I don't want to make it too simplistic. But I feel that we have, what, three news networks, three business networks, we're on 24/7 — I think we have time to get in all of the above. ... Whether you like the president, dislike the president, it's incumbent on all of us is just to be fair to the news that is.
Some in conservative media and in the administration have made the case that Trump deserves the credit for the success of the economy recently. Others say that it's mostly thanks to Barack Obama. In this polarized media landscape, has it become mandatory to pick one or the other?
I think we're very careful here — I'm obviously expressing my bias, and particularly on my various shows, including this new one — not to do that. And to just let the chips fall where they may. Again, look at the facts. ... I see it through that prism. I mention the good and the bad. I mentioned the good with Barack Obama, and I guess I ticked off some Fox viewers. Conversely, I mentioned the bad. ... I really don't have an agenda either way.
Did you get any blowback from the White House for saying that you don't want to interview the president?
I got a little. I'll just keep it at that. Obviously people say, "Oh, good luck, you weren't going to get him anyway." But I have no ill will toward the president or his administration. We cover this administration all the time. He makes news. His policies make news. So, I don't think it's necessary that I [pursue] an interview with him. I think all the interviews he's done at Fox News have all made news. I think anytime the president speaks, he makes news. So, I don't need to add myself to the chorus.
How are your relationships with the opinion hosts at the network? Have those ever been strained by some of the more controversial comments that have been made, including Sean Hannity's remarks about former Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore?
We all get along just fine here. Obviously, it's a huge sandbox, and there are people doing different things who work for these shows, especially in the opinion programming. They freely admit it, state it. I will say I have no agenda to be pro- or anti-Trump. ... Where I fault news organizations, of any sort, on the right or the left, if it's all one way, that's a problem. If you're obsessed with, "The president curses," just as if you are not obsessed with it, you've got to balance it out. You've got to get a sense of what happened and why, and step back, without an agenda.
We in the media are very thin-skinned sometimes. We get very offended. And I can understand, the president says, "Oh, you're [fake news]." And then you bristle at that, and it gets in your head. And, all of a sudden, you're acting the very way the president says you act. I always think you should try to be above that fray. Don't take the bait — be above the bait.