There is a certain glamour that accompanies TV journalism that is mostly absent from the newspaper business. When you anchor one of the most-watched shows on cable news, for example, you get invited to do some cool stuff — like, say, be a guest on the "Late Show" with Stephen Colbert.
"Cal, your invite could be in the mail," Fox News Channel's Bret Baier told me Wednesday morning, after his appearance on Colbert's program the night before.
That's nice of you to say, Bret, but I don't think so.
Baier insists these glitzy extracurriculars don't enamor him.
"It is nice to be able to do those things because I do think it expands our audience," he said. "Maybe people who have not watched my show would check it out. So I think that's a good thing for the show and for the network, but I don't think about that aspect. I like covering the news."
Baier and Fox will have plenty of news to cover in the next two weeks at the Republican and Democratic conventions. Baier will run the point, along with Megyn Kelly, but first he traveled to Indiana Wednesday to tape an interview with Donald Trump. We spoke by phone before that sit-down about Colbert, the conventions (plus the large volume of coffee he will require to get through them) and the sexual harassment lawsuit against his boss, Roger Ailes. A partial transcript of our conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
THE FIX: What's the convention stretch going to be like for Bret Baier?
BAIER: It's going to be a little crazy. So I have this interview in Indianapolis, and then I'm flying back to D.C. I pack up for two weeks, essentially, and then I do my show tonight. Then I hop on a plane to Cleveland, and we start coverage tomorrow. Tomorrow's the all-important rules committee meeting, so we'll have wall-to-wall, behind-the-scenes stuff on "Special Report" of all that's going on there. ... I've got a one-hour documentary that airs over the weekend — kind of a scene-setter for the convention that we've been working on for a few months. And then we start in earnest on Monday. I'll do my show, and then I anchor prime-time coverage with Megyn Kelly Monday through Thursday. And then we fly directly to Philadelphia for the Democrats.
THE FIX: On a two-week trip like this, how many suits go in the luggage?
BAIER: Now that's a good question. I actually don't know how to pack all of them in there. But guys have it easy. You can use a dark suit a few times.
THE FIX: I imagine sleep will be in short supply. Are you a chain coffee drinker? Are you a Red Bull guy?
BAIER: I'm a coffee guy. Trying not to go crazy with the coffee.
THE FIX: But by Thursday of the Democratic convention, how many coffees is Bret Baier going to need to get through the day?
BAIER: There will be some caffeine ingested by Thursday of that week, definitely.
THE FIX: Fox has been part of the story of the Republican primary because of an unusual rapport with the nominee, right? He's friendly with your morning show, but he has feuded openly with your partner, Megyn Kelly. Sometimes he's warm with Bill O'Reilly, and sometimes he's complaining about how negative he's become. How does that play in your head as you try to cover him? He's been really hot and cold with you guys.
BAIER: From a news perspective, that doesn't factor in. He has relationships with different people, different shows. From my perspective, covering him, we cover the good, the bad, the ugly; the polls that are up, the polls that are down. I think I've asked him tough but fair questions, and I plan to do that this morning when I sit down with him and try to get specific answers, which is sometimes tough in these interviews with Donald Trump. That's how I look at it, no matter what his rapport or relationship is with other folks on the channel. Listen, there's no doubt that his election is unlike any we've seen, and this candidate is unlike any we've seen.
THE FIX: Different situation with Hillary Clinton — not so much feuding, but she's been pretty standoffish. The few times she has come on Fox News's air, it's been with you. Why does she like you so much?
BAIER: Well, I've put in a lot of effort behind the scenes, talking to the Clinton folks to get those interviews. We worked really hard to get that Democratic town hall with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in Detroit. We're working hard to cover the Democrats fairly in a way that they should feel comfortable, when they look at my show, that they're treated fairly and covered fairly.
THE FIX: Is that the pitch? Your colleague, Chris Wallace, talked about this when he discussed trying to land a sit-down interview with the president. He was steadily going to the White House, week after week, and touting his own fairness. Is that the tactic that goes on behind the scenes?
BAIER: Yeah, I mean, that's the pitch. ... There's a lot of Democrats I talk to on Capitol Hill who watch "Special Report" religiously — and independents. We strive to have folks from the administration on. I just had Secretary Burwell of HHS and Secretary Johnson of Homeland Security. We're trying to get another interview with the president. I think they respect that as a news program we have a lot of eyeballs.
THE FIX: You have the pre-convention interview with Trump. Any guarantee of something similar with Clinton?
BAIER: We're working on it. The campaign has said good things. We're optimistic.
THE FIX: It seems to me that it would be in her interest to go on Fox News. Even if she take the simplistic view that the audience is full of conservatives, there are plenty of conservatives who aren't thrilled with their nominee. Perhaps she would have an opportunity to peel off some of those voters, especially as Trump is openly courting Democrats who supported Bernie Sanders.
BAIER: That's exactly right. She is going to make a play for disenfranchised Republicans who are not buying in to Donald Trump. It is in her interest to do those interviews.
THE FIX: Tell me about your Colbert experience. You were on the "Late Show" last night.
BAIER: It was fun. I will concede it was a little nerve-wracking. I didn't know where it was going to go. ... He has a point of view, but he was very nice to me. We talked beforehand. You know, there's a lot of stuff in the news, obviously, and he was a lot more serious than I thought he was going to be.
THE FIX: In fact, he led with the news of the last week about Gretchen Carlson suing Roger Ailes. You're in an unenviable spot. Presumably you have a good rapport with your boss. I don't know how well you know Carlson, but she was a colleague. I assume you had a rapport with her, too, right? Do you feel stuck in between? How do you look at the situation?
BAIER: I'm not stuck in between. I'm 100 percent behind Roger. I'm a guy, so obviously my value in talking out about this is different, but as I said last night, that's not the Roger I know. The Roger I know is someone who called every time my son had open-heart surgery. He's a guy who has treated me and others at Fox amazingly, and the long list of women publicly and privately supporting Roger, I think, speaks volumes. I'll talk till I'm blue in the face about Roger. As far as Gretchen — I went on her show. I didn't really have a big relationship. I was in Washington, and she was in New York. It's unreal and very foreign, these allegations. I've been there 19 years; I wouldn't be there that long if it was a bad environment.