February saw the end of President Donald Trump’s historic stock market rally, with the Dow Jones Industrial average retreating thousands of points from a high of more than 26,000.
But on his set at Fox Business’ “Varney & Co.,” host Stuart Varney was cool as a cucumber.
“I go out of my way to be entertaining. I don’t think that’s a fault — I think that’s a plus,” Varney told TheWrap. “Viewers have an extraordinary range of choice as to what they watch, who they invite into their living room or wherever on a daily basis and to be entertaining is of paramount importance.”
For Varney, that entertainment takes the form of taking a broad view of business — anything that touches “money,” as he puts it — and a firm injunction against insider terminology.
“I don’t like erecting a barrier between me and the audience,” he said. “You use jargon and that’s a turn-off. What is QE3 — a battleship?” he added, referring to econ-speak for the third round of the Federal Reserve policy of quantitative easing.
The British-born broadcaster’s entertainment-first approach has resulted in a mixed bag on the ratings front. Throughout 2017 and into 2018, Varney has dominated his time slot, pulling in 310,000 total viewers on average last month compared to CNBC’s 221,000. But he still lags slightly behind the Comcast-owned network in the advertiser-coveted 25-54-year-old demographic.
Those trends have held steady even as the bottom has fallen out of markets in recent weeks.
“I vividly remember middle of the afternoon on February 7 watching the monitor, and we were down 600 points and then within an hour we were down 1,600 points,” Varney told TheWrap on his realization that that the market was going south.
“We call it rock ‘n’ roll,” he said. “You throw out the run-down [of planned stories and talking points], you have to throw out some of your guests because they’re germane to subjects that aren’t germane to the day.”
A British expatriate and father of six, Varney was recruited by Ted Turner to help launch CNN in 1980, but like fellow CNN alum Lou Dobbs, he began to lean increasingly rightward politically and joined Fox News in 2004 after a three-year stint at CNBC.
From his set at Fox Business Varney has now become a reliable voice in favor of President Donald Trump, and an uncompromising proponent of GOP economic orthodoxy. “I’m a fan of [Trump’s] growth policy,” he said. “I see a 3, maybe 4 percent growth economy.”
“Varney & Co.” airs weekdays on Fox Business Network from 9 a.m. to noon ET.