While most Fox News employees have been working from home for the last month, afternoon anchor Bill Hemmer has continued to broadcast from the network’s Manhattan headquarters. And the decision, he said, was his.
“I just thought it was important as a company and as a network that we show that the lights are still on,” Hemmer told TheWrap in an interview on Wednesday. “And that at least I felt it was still safe to come into the building during all of this.”
Many Fox personalities — including the “Fox & Friends” morning crew and Dana Perino, who anchors the show just before “Bill Hemmer Reports” — have been doing their shows remotely from their homes. But even as at least six network staffers have tested positive for COVID-19, Hemmer decided to buck the trend.
“Some people are not OK with that,” he said. “I am OK with it and I’m not here to make a decision for others.”
Fox News started “reducing the staff footprint” at its New York headquarters on March 16, with “all of those departments capable of doing so” sending staff home to telecommute, according to an all-staff internal memo sent the previous week. Soon, all on-camera interviews were being done by video call. Few staffers remained in the office and those who are still there have been asked to take their temperatures every morning before coming in.
Hemmer — who’s been reporting from Times Square, the Javits Center convention hall-cum-field hospital and other locations around a practically-deserted Manhattan — is being optimistic in the face of a difficult story, but in 25 years in cable news, he’s covered a lot of them. He likened the coronavirus story, in scale, to that of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina or the 2008 financial crisis because all of those are what he “would consider epic long-running story.”
Even with that experience, he’s hesitant to guess how long this story could last. “A lot of the guesses had been very wrong from different perspectives,” he said.
In March, President Donald Trump told Hemmer during a town hall on the pandemic crisis that he hoped to have the country’s economy operating by Easter, which came and went without any relaxation in stay-at-home orders that have spread nationwide. Guesses and projections from all levels have been difficult to nail down.
“My feelings and my opinions have always been rooted in optimism, so I will take the near side of all the projections,” he said.