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Now, as Brennan is set to return to the Face the Nation anchor desk this Sunday for the first time since April, the fast rise of the Delta variant, along with kids returning to school, has sharpened her focus.
“When I went on leave, I thought I was going to come back to a pretty different picture as to what COVID would be for America at this moment,” Brennan told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview. “I had the last dose of my vaccine the week before I gave birth, and my baby is four months old and I am coming back and it is still full-force concern about COVID.”
Brennan returns from leave with a new title (chief foreign affairs correspondent for CBS News) and as the anchor of a slightly renamed program (Face the Nation With Margaret Brennan, with her name now officially tied to the show). “Being able to put that personal stance on it means a lot, because I put a lot of myself into the work we do, as has the entire Face the Nation team,” she says. The CBS public affairs show has been the most-watched Sunday news program for 35 weeks this season, even with Brennan on leave for some of that time.
But the stories she plans to cover should resonate with anyone still trying to figure out where things stand with regard to the pandemic, to Afghanistan and, of course, to politics.
“For me, fundamentally, the heart and soul of Face the Nation is going to be about making sure we are on the news, but following the stories that Americans feel like they can’t afford not to know about, that really feel like it directly impacts them,” Brennan says.
And so when Brennan returns to the long-running Sunday show, expect stories that tie the larger picture into the everyday lives of viewers.
“We are keenly focused on what is going to happen to children, who are going into the classroom now, and whether they will be vectors of transmission for the virus. Depending on where you are in the country it is a different story. It is a national crisis impacting the country in a very regional way, in different ways,” Brennan says, noting that the story is also a personal one.
“One thing that will also be different for me coming back from leave is that I have a soon-to-be 3-year-old who will be going into the classroom for the first time,” Brennan says. “It was great to have a summer where we could meet and be outside, but all of us parents are living with people who are potentially very vulnerable. As parents tune in to this more as they go back to school, there are a lot of questions there, for pharmaceutical executives, for the administration, for the regulators, as well as for ourselves, for the booster shots, what the best practices will be or should be.”
But with Brennan’s background covering foreign affairs, and with the 2022 midterm elections inching closer each week, Brennan hopes to continue the program’s long tradition of newsmaking interviews with foreign and domestic political leaders and continued political coverage.
“I want Face the Nation to continue to be where world leaders come to have a conversation about America’s role in the world, how it impacts them, but what happens outside our borders and how it impacts Americans, too,” Brennan says.
It is a mission, to hear Brennan tell it, that continues the program’s 67-year legacy, recalling a moment she had in CBS’ bureau in Havana, Cuba, where a black-and-white photo of Fidel Castro appearing on the program adorned the wall.
Brennan notes, “It was such a great snapshot of what Face the Nation has meant historically — this is an incredible brand and news platform to call people to account, to explain to America what’s going on.”
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