Steve Hilton doesn’t wear suits, doesn’t own a cellphone and didn’t vote for President Trump. The last point can be explained by ineligibility (he’s not a citizen yet), but, still, he does not fit the mold of a dressed-up, plugged-in Fox News host.
Hilton looks more like a Silicon Valley executive with a confusing Luddite streak. Which he is. He is the co-founder of a nonpartisan crowdfunding platform called Crowdpac in San Francisco. When I spoke to him on Friday, the Crowdpac homepage looked like this:
Yet Hilton is indeed a Fox News host — or will be, officially, when his weekly show, “The Next Revolution,” premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. Hilton, who was an adviser to former British Prime Minister David Cameron, says the program will be a study in populism, both foreign and domestic.
Hilton spoke with The Fix about his wardrobe and his TV game plan. The following conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
THE FIX: I caught you on “Fox & Friends” morning, trying on a new blazer. Looked good.
HILTON: Oh, my gosh. You saw the really serious stuff, then. That’s great.
THE FIX: You’re not going to go all in on the suit and tie, right?
HILTON: No, that’s not really me. Even when I was working with the prime minister in 10 Downing Street, I didn’t do that.
THE FIX: How did the show come together? Was this an idea that you pitched, or did Fox News come to you?
HILTON: It was more the latter. I think the story really goes back to when I published my book, “More Human: Designing a World Where People Come First,” which was really a reflection on my time working in government, running businesses and the various experiences of my professional life. As part of the promotional effort around that book, I did some media, including with Fox.
Immediately after that, a paperback version came out in the U.K., in which I set out my position on Brexit. I was in favor of Brexit, a position I argued when I was working in government, which put me on a different side from David Cameron, who was my very close friend for many years, as well as the prime minister when I was working in Downing Street. I went back to the U.K. I was part of the Brexit campaign. And that was of interest to Fox, so I started doing more with the channel on various shows, and it was really that process to where we are today.
THE FIX: How much time will you devote to the Bernie Sanders strain of populism, vs. the Donald Trump version?
HILTON: I would say I’ll be giving 100 percent of the time to my version. A lot of that is captured in my book. So it’s all written down, as it were. Look, in the campaign it was very evident that there were interesting overlaps, not just in the agendas Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were advancing, but in their supporters. Of course, there are big differences as well.
For me, the thing that really distinguishes what I would call positive populism from other political movements is it’s not particularly ideological. It’s very practical. It’s focused on real people and their real needs. What we have an opportunity to do now — and certainly I’d like to advance this on the show — is to actually focus the discussion around practical steps that will lead to practical improvements in people’s lives.
THE FIX: I think under previous administrations, the goal you just outlined would sound overly ambitious. You can talk about whatever you want on TV, but will it actually change anything? In this case, we have a president who seems to be an avid consumer of cable news and a frequent viewer of Fox News. We quite often see him on Twitter responding to things he’s just seen on Fox News. Are you conscious of that? The fact that what you say on your show might reach the man himself and could influence his thinking?
HILTON: I’m not, actually. I’m very conscious of our audience, generally, and what’s going on in their lives. That’s what I really want to come back to, time and time again — talking about the issues that matter to them in a manner that they understand and relate to, and that gives them hope that positive change might actually happen. That’s who I’ve got in mind.
Now, look, one way or another, I’ve for many years been involved in advocating a particular agenda. Of course, that means I want to see the things I’ve argued for actually happen in the real world. I’m not doing it just to amuse myself.