Star Fox News anchor explains how she plans her show, while knowing Donald Trump might be watching

Dana Perino

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Dana Perino
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Alex Wong/Getty Images

    Dana Perino, President George W. Bush’s former press secretary, is the host of two Fox News shows, “The Five” and “The Daily Briefing.” Fox News has come under fire this week from some of its employees, who were reportedly appalled by its Russia investigation coverage. Perino was interviewed for Business Insider’s “Success! How I Did It” podcast and asked if she believes America receives two separate sets of facts from news organizations, depending on which way the organization leans. Perino says she just sees “facts as facts” and reads a lot to try and see a story from every angle. She does acknowledge that sometimes she thinks about the fact that President Donald Trump is probably watching her show. She says that doesn’t shape how she plans her show, but she has sent “messages of advice” toward him while on air.

On Tuesday, Fox News came under a slew of criticism for how it covered developments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian election interference. Instead of headlining the indictments handed down, it focused on other stories throughout the day – including pertaining to Hillary Clinton and her alleged ties to funding of the firm that produced the dossier detailing President Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.

A “Fox News right now” meme trended on social media as people spotted stories the network covered sometimes in lieu of the Mueller news. Some Fox News employees said they were so embarrassed by their network’s Russia investigation coverage that they told CNN they wanted to quit.

Dana Perino is the host of two shows on Fox News, “The Five” and “The Daily Briefing.” Prior to joining Fox, Perino was press secretary for President George W. Bush. Former first lady Barbara Bush and others have referred to Perino, who comes from conservative roots but considers herself fairly nonpartisan, as the “voice of reason” at the network. She has also been targeted by Donald Trump on Twitter.

Business Insider interviewed Perino about her career for our podcast, “Success! How I Did It,” one week before the FBI’s indictments. We asked her if she believes Americans receive two separate sets of facts from news organizations, and how she takes that into consideration while preparing her show.

“I just see facts as facts,” Perino replied. “I like to have all the facts and then let the chips fall where they may. That means that you have to do a lot of reading. I also think it’s very important to be honest that there are upsides and downsides to every policy choice.”

Here’s the full portion of the Q&A where Perino addresses how to deliver nonpartisan facts, and how it feels knowing President Trump might be watching (she says it does not shape how she does her show, but she has tried to send him messages of advice on air).

Shontell: The president watches Fox all the time. Do you feel pressure knowing that President Trump might be watching you? Does it shape how you do your show?

Perino: Every once in a while I think about it.

Shontell: Because for a while, weren’t people waving and saying, “Hey, Donald Trump!”?

Perino: Oh, like I’m trying to send him a message of advice? I have done that on “The Five” before actually. I don’t know if he really watches “The Five” – maybe he does. But there have been times when I’m, like, “You know what I’d say?” Because I always have to be everybody’s press secretary. But it does not shape how I do my show. I actually feel a tremendous amount of freedom to just report the news and to bring to bear my experience of having worked in Washington, both at Capitol Hill and in the White House, and having grown up outside of the media bubbles in the Midwest and western Rockies, that there is a freedom that comes from not feeling that you’re affiliated with any particular party or candidate.

Shontell: And you’ve been called “the voice of reason.”

Perino: I know Mrs. Bush calls me that.

Shontell: How do you do that when people look at Fox as a network as more conservative?

Perino: I mean, there’s no denying that I was a Republican press secretary or that I lean conservative. I actually think that you are more likely to be successful in getting people to listen to you if you are reasonable and if you can present things as reasonable.

You asked me, “How do I remain the voice of reason?” I’m not a yeller. I don’t interrupt people. Maybe I should. I mean, there are times when I think, “I really should get in there and try to fight.” But when I do get animated, it’s for a good reason.

Shontell: Do you think that there are two different sets of facts being presented to both sides, and do you think about that when you’re talking to your audience?

Perino: I just see facts as facts. And I like to have all the facts and then let the chips fall where they may. That means that you have to do a lot of reading. I also think it’s very important to be honest that there are upsides and downsides to every policy choice. On trade, for example, yes, it is true, if you do more trade, it is possible that some types of jobs will leave the United States. Now is that counterbalanced by the fact that products that are being sold back into the United States are much cheaper so consumers are able to afford more in America? And vice versa, it goes the other way, as well. So I think that being honest about upsides and downsides is so important in this era where you have lots of different information coming in from all over.