Bill Hemmer is not an opinion guy — but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a fan of Fox News’ famous fire-breathers.
“They’re smart people. They know what they’re talking about,” the host of “America’s Newsroom” morning show told TheWrap of his more opinion-driven primetime colleagues like Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson.
“You can engage in this debate with them or you have a remote control,” he added.
For the unfailingly polite Hemmer, the comments amounted to something of a rebuke of his colleague Chris Wallace, the veteran Fox News anchor who told the Associated Press last month that he disagreed with media-bashing by Fox News opinion hosts.
Hemmer — one of the network’s most buttoned-up newsmen — said he was committed to making sure his opinion never seeped onto the network during his two hours from 9 to 11 a.m.
“At 9 a.m. in the morning, East Coast time, we will stay in our lane and that is news,” he said.
Hemmer’s news-first instincts serve as something of a chaser for viewers after three hours of the network’s breathless commentary on “Fox & Friends.” For the last month, Hemmer has been joined Sandra Smith, who also serves as a co-host for the more opinion-fueled program “Outnumbered.”
The pair have found an easy chemistry on set that has boosted ratings in the first four weeks of their joint tenure, with a 5 percent increase in total viewers and nearly 10 percent among the advertiser-critical 25-54 demographic. Strong numbers overall suggest the program has a bright future.
Smith echoed Hemmer’s insistence that the pair remain strictly impartial.
“It doesn’t matter what we think,” she said. “If you’re not asking the right questions and you’re not challenging your guests on all fronts, [viewers] will know that and you’ll lose their faith and their trust.”
Both, for example, said the Trump-Russia investigation was an extremely important story. Other quadrants of the Rupert Murdoch empire have downplayed the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, including the Wall Street Journal editorial page, which called on Mueller to resign last month.
And “Outnumbered” recently ran a segment questioning Mueller’s credibility.
Mueller’s face and a huge “CREDIBILITY IN QUESTION” banner. Is President Trump watching? pic.twitter.com/3okwN4wBiK
– Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) October 30, 2017
“I thought the Wall Street Journal angle was interesting,” said Hemmer, who hedged on whether he was on board with the #FireMueller movement. “I don’t know where in the end I come down on it.”
Hemmer — a network stalwart — has been with the show since it launched 10 years ago. In the past he’s co-hosted with Martha MacCallum and someone else in the news recently — Megyn Kelly.
Kelly, who bolted Fox News earlier this year, now hosts an NBC talk show that airs at 9 a.m. — in direct competition with Hemmer. Her first month hosting the third hour of “Today” has been rocky, but Hemmer offered nothing bur praise.
“Megyn is a competitor and she has enormous talent,” he said. “I was very sad to see her leave. I wish her only great things and I think her audience is going to find that yet again.”