With the debt crisis paralyzing the nation, Ed Henry picked a terrible time to to switch networks — or a great one, depending on how one looks at it.
CNN’s former chief White House correspondent announced in June he would be taking the same position at Fox News Channel. By the time Henry started in late July, the country was embroiled in the debt-ceiling debate and the White House had become ground zero for the latest news … and the latest spats.
Also Read: Ed Henry Moves From CNN to Fox News Channel
Henry’s move to FNC was already polarizing enough — CNN and FNC are not exactly friendly competitors. But his much-ballyhooed disagreement with White House Press Secretary Jay Carney last week also raised his profile.
On his first day with Fox, Henry asked Carney why Obama gave a prime time address without offering a concrete plan, to which Carney responded that Henry was just using a Republican talking point. The next day Carney accused Henry of trying to stir up trouble for Fox's benefit.
Then again, given that he has said Fox’s ratings helped motivate his switch, that may be exactly what he wanted.
Henry talked with TheWrap about how the deficit crisis made his transition easier, which Democratic Supreme Court Justice watches Fox and why his war of words with Jay Carney was overblown.
Is there a difference for you in covering the White House for Fox instead of CNN?
A lot more people are watching me now.
In this polarized political landscape where FNC is seen as right-wing, MSNBC as left-wing and so on, does it ever undermine your credibility to work for a network that is perceived as being on one side?
Quite the contrary. There are various cable networks who might do whatever they want to do in primetime. At Fox there might be someone like Sean Hannity, but I'm on through the rest of the day with people like Shephard Smith and Bret Baier, who are down the middle and fair.
So quick story, when I first told my mom I'd be making the switch she said, "Fox, really?" I said yeah it’s a great move and cited some of the reasons I told you. She called her friends out in Tuscon, [Ariz.] and one woman said, "Fox is great that’s all we watch. We've never seen him before because we don’t watch CNN."
Or, I was a dinner a couple months ago with [Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer] and he basically said he watches "Special Report with Bret Baier" every night. This is a Democratic Supreme Court justice.
How challenging was it to cover the country’s biggest ongoing story and switch networks at the same time?
It was baptism by fire, but in a weird kind of way it made the switch easier because if it had been a quiet week — and sometimes the president is not doing a lot, there is not some dominant story and you struggle to find what is the story today, what is the edge on something — I would have been pressing more about being in a new place.
And right away you got people’s attention through your confrontation with Jay Carney.
I was hired for the specific purpose of my being a tough but fair down-the-middle reporter. It was my [reputation] at CNN, and it’s gonna be my rep at Fox. The proof will be in the pudding whether outsiders wanna believe it or not.
Were you surprised by how much the media focused on it?
I wasn’t really surprised that people would jump on it. I was more surprised at the outside reaction, people thinking it was some big deal. After one of the confrontations, Jay and I were in his office laughing about it.
Do the other correspondents treat you differently now that you are at Fox?
After the first exchange with Jay there were some groans in the room. I think colleagues were saying "wait a second" because they know me. It was never personal for me. I was never out to get anyone. In talking to people anecdotally and informally I had a lot of colleagues say, "If you had just stayed in the corner at CNN and barely raised your hand and never asked a question it’d be weird if you were at Fox and in the administration’s face."
GIven the numbers-heavy nature of the deficit story, how much harder was it to explain to viewers?
It made it a lot harder because I'm terrible at math; I was an English major at Siena College. Numbers are part of the story but to me it really didn’t matter. The story was not the numbers but the back and forth struggle, are they going to get it done or not?
The politics of it all. Looking ahead to the 2012 election, is it shaping up to be one of the more negative campaigns we've seen?
On the one hand, based on what we've seen in the debt debate it got a little ugly and so I would anticipate that the presidential campaign could be the same. But on the other hand I've been covering politics for a long time … and I feel like every two years or every four years people are saying its the nastiest campaign ever.