FOX News Anchor Bill Hemmer is precisely as you’d imagine him: affable, humor-filled, and abundantly knowledgeable on the give-and-take of the Washingtonian political paradigm. After co-anchoring the three-hour broadcast of FOX’s long-running news program, America’s Newsroom, the Emmy winner spoke candidly with me, recalling his third-world travel that propelled him into the media limelight, and gave his scoop on how the Midterms could potentially shape up.
As with many of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, artists, and innovators, Bill forged his own path by doing what he loved. In his senior year in Cincinnati’s Elder High School, a time where children are plagued with the uncertainty of their future and even their present, Hemmer and his friend Doug Lutz decided they’d welcome students to their first period with a little 80’s Rock n’ Roll. Laughing about the school’s decision to axe the PA boombox, Hemmer explained “It was just a creative way to reach our fellow students…but it must have left an impression because that’s what I decided to pursue.” As many children are pressured to follow in their parents’ footsteps, Hemmer noted that the all-boys Catholic High School “worked on [students] in the early days of our time there to figure out what we wanted to do later in life…Young men and women who at least pick a path will find themselves, in many cases, years ahead of their colleagues.”
And Hemmer certainly had such an advantage, as his stint as a student DJ carried him over to sports reporting and producing in his hometown’s local news affiliates, including WLWT. His seemingly accelerating career as a sports broadcaster, however, soon came toe-to-toe with his evolving ambitions. Hemmer knew that the ball could only be thrown with a finite variety of inflections. With his professional satisfaction teetering, Hemmer expressed to his boss that he was going to shed his athletically inclined rapport with viewers and embark on a months-long worldwide expedition to witness, learn, and to experience more. “I had a great curiosity for what was out there…it shaped me into a much different person, and it gave me opportunities that I would’ve never been able to achieve on my own.”
While Hemmer crashed in hostels in Ho Chi Minh City and worked in medical clinics in poverty-ridden towns alongside Mother Teresa, whose “giant” hands he once likened to a “sacred shroud,” he never abandoned his love: broadcasting. American news affiliates received dispatches from him day-in, day-out, covering various international stories from within a metaphysical context, which was a unique scheme for news, especially local television at the time. “If you look back in your life and you try to draw a thread between this connection and that connection…to me looking back it’s obvious,” Hemmer rationalized, as we discussed his move from small-market TV to national television, where the anchor ensconced himself for a long-term.
Shortly after returning from his trek, Hemmer accepted a role in Ted Turner’s iconic brainchild CNN. With CNN being the sole 24-hour news network at the time, the Cincinnati native climbed the rungs of the cable news totem pole and hosted “brand name” programs alongside prominent journalists such as Paula Zahn and Soledad O’Brien. By then, Hemmer had been a renowned journalist, in his own right.
“I’ve been a big fan of the cable operation for a long time…I knew the power of it. When the first gulf war broke out, I think I stayed up for three nights in a row watching. It was a real honor to be able to sit there, no question about it,” Hemmer said. When asked to reveal his feelings on his first moment in the role, the veteran journalist elaborated with his chief journalistic objective “Was I nervous? Probably a little combination of anxiety, which I think can lead to a good positive energy. I’m not sure if I would describe it as nerves, [but]… I just wanted to do a good job. And the way I define doing a good job is to get the facts right – and that’s the barometer by which I use to measure a lot of what I did then and a lot of what I do now.”
With 20/20 hindsight, Hemmer made no bones about his prior travel affecting his professional success, both at CNN and FOX News Channel, saying “Rarely does a day go by where some aspect of that experience is not incorporated into the job that we do. And that comes down to understanding, when you think [about] the war on terror in 2001, the complexities of the history between Pakistan, Afghanistan, India…the Middle East, which is always an issue that we deal with, and the complexities that run through all of those countries: people, cultures, history, and religion; to be able to experience it in a more personal way, I think it has given me a better understanding of those issues…I can’t get the same knowledge from reading a newspaper. Many of us would like to take these complicated stories and provide answers in a yes/no format, but they’re much more complicated than that.”
“In sports there was a saying: You don’t know what’s going to happen and that’s why you play the game.”
Although a number of these complex controversies require Hemmer to open his mental repository and recall his travel, the past months have beholden him to dig up his coverage of the beltway, in preparation for the highly anticipated midterm elections.
As campaigns touch-up the sheen on their candidates across the country, with Presidents Obama and Trump heading to the campaign trail and rallying for their respective parties, Hemmer and his colleagues Bret Baier, the anchor of FNC’s Special Report, Martha MacCallum, host of The Story, along with a handful of correspondents monitoring races across the country, are all slated to host FOX News’ coverage of the midterm elections.
Just as the other anchors in the picture, Hemmer has been provided with unique insight into how this thing will unravel with his daily news-maker interviews and exchanges with political power players. But unlike many, Hemmer isn’t just monitoring theories and mere perception, he’s watching airport hangar rallies and Trump’s ability to muster and electrify a crowd. “I think in 2016, what so many people missed: They have to remember Trump was holding rallies in the dead of winter in Manchester, New Hampshire, and he was pulling in 10,000 people. Well, here we are three years later and he’s still pulling in 10,000 people. I remember George Bush as a presidential candidate now; He did that in 2000, he did that in 2004. President Obama did that in 2008, 2012, but there never was really a way to tell in between those four years whether or not Obama or Bush could do it. Trump is intent on doing it.” Questioning whether crowds turn into stronger numerical support, he pondered, “…it might. I would just caution you on this, Terry. We missed it in 2016, there’s a reason why they’re selling out in an arena in Houston, Texas tonight. It’s just one of these data points that you keep in the back of your head and you think about on the morning of November 7th after the vote to think, whether or not it was an accurate data point, or whether or not it was misleading.”
Hemmer also recounted some of what was said during his morning show on October 22nd, the day of our interview: “Ronna McDaniel, [the Chairwoman of the Republican National Committee], said she would like to clone the president. She would like him to be everywhere…the… [RNC] see[s] that his presence out there has made a difference…I don’t know how that computes on election day, maybe it does, maybe it does not.” He was also pointed to a WSJ poll that came out showing Suburban Republicans and Democrats as standing on a level-playing field: “I’m certain that will surprise many people.”
Referencing the outcome of the 2016 election, and pollsters’ work in collecting accurate voting patterns, Hemmer asserted, “[Pollsters] are trying their best to figure it out… The polling is run by political scientists, they’re very good at what they do, but it’s not the final word.” Circling back to his days as a cub reporter, he summed up his Midterm forecast in a single phrase, “In sports there was a saying: You don’t know what’s going to happen and that’s why you play the game.”
Catch Bill Hemmer and his co-anchor Sandra Smith LIVE on America’s Newsroom weekdays from 9AM-12PM E.T. on FOX News Channel.