Not every cable news show can score an interview with the president for its premiere episode, but it's worth asking, right? Maybe request an appearance down the line, if day one doesn't work out?
Neil Cavuto, launching another program on Fox News on Saturday, didn't bother asking for President Trump — and doesn't plan to. He said on the air in November that he doesn't think interviewing Trump would be worthwhile.
He told me he still feels that way, as he prepared to host the first episode of “Cavuto Live,” a two-hour show that will air on Saturdays at 10 a.m. Cavuto is now on the air 17 hours per week on Fox News and Fox Business.
We spoke on Friday afternoon about Trump, the looming prospect of a government shutdown, breaking news on weekends, and how he does live TV without a teleprompter. Our conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
THE FIX: We don't have a shutdown watch every week, but the president does tend to make news on the weekends. Was that part of the thinking behind another live show?
CAVUTO: I think it was. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't. I mean, the fact of the matter is that so much news is made on the weekend and so much is dumped on the Friday before that you can't really risk not being live. One of the things I've seen over the course of my time at Fox News, from its inception, [is] we've effectively doubled our live time and dramatically increased our live time on the business network. The times really demand it. We found that Saturday morning, between 10 a.m. and noon, is a far busier and more robust time than even I figured when I started doing these business shows on tape on the weekends.
THE FIX: How the heck are you preparing for the first show? Do you have two different rundowns, one if the government shuts down and one if there's a deal?
CAVUTO: Well, you know, the issue — and I don't hide this from people — is because of my MS [multiple sclerosis], I can't read a prompter. It's been years. So, everything is always fly by the seat of the pants for me, anyway. . . . I wish I could say that was all genius planning, rather than something that's physically required of me.
THE FIX: I've read that about you. You don't use a prompter at all?
CAVUTO: No. I wish I could. A lot of times it would come in handy, like for pronouncing guests' names. Seriously, though, when my MS began accelerating, and I lost the ability to focus on words and images, you just adapt.
THE FIX: You said on one of your other shows that interviewing President Trump wouldn't be a good use of time. Do you still feel that way?
CAVUTO: You know, I really don't have any hankering to [interview him]. And I like him; he's not a bad person. I've interviewed him many times and known him for over 30 years as a businessman and covered him in business venues, whether when I was at PBS or CNBC or Fox. I just strongly believe that . . . you have a limited amount of time with a president, and I would spend a good deal of time trying to clarify — or have him try to clarify — statements that I believe to be demonstrably false. And I thought that would eat up a lot of our time and before you know it, they'd say, “That's it. Interview's over.” I don't think anyone in the West Wing is shedding tears over my position. I just feel that better people than I would, and should, do it. I just have zero interest in doing it.
THE FIX: What about other administration officials? How do you see the value of interviewing them, when it seems like the only official word on the president's position comes from him? We just saw John Kelly on Bret Baier's show, and the next morning, Trump was on Twitter, undermining what his own chief of staff just said. On one hand, you might say that's a waste of time because these officials don't have the authority to speak for Trump; on the other, you might say it's revealing if they are not in step.
CAVUTO: Well, I think in that case, you might have supported the argument to interview these officials, especially when they say something that generates a reaction like Kelly's interview with Bret. The president was obviously pissed off. I don't want it to sound like there's an edict: “We're not going to try for anyone in the White House.” . . . I just want to make sure I do my research, find out where their comments jibe with prior comments they've made or the president has made. I've almost always discovered that there is a nuance or a wrinkle to what they're saying, from what they've previously said or what the president has said. That wouldn't be unique to this administration. I noticed it talking to Obama officials. But this administration has it on steroids.
Correction: This post originally misstated the channel airing “Cavuto Live.” It is Fox News, not Fox Business.