FOX News Analyst Brit Hume mined a half-century of reporting during an in-depth conversation about the press and the presidency Wednesday at Grove City College.
Hume was the featured guest at the College’s 13th annual Ronald Reagan Lecture and offered the standing room only crowd his views on how the press ought to operate, how it has changed since the 1970s and how its approach to covering the nation’s chief executive has suffered.
Answering a series of questions from Grove City College President Paul J. McNulty ’80 and Dr. Paul Kengor, professor of Political Science and Senior Chief Academic Fellow with the Institute for Faith & Freedom, Hume recalled his earliest days in journalism as a newspaper reporter in Hartford, Conn., in the 1960s and the fundamentals he learned on the job.
“In those days, journalists were no less liberal than today … but they operated under a tradition, a set of customs and standards to cover news in a neutral way, balanced, that didn’t permit opinions,” Hume said. “That old discipline has collapsed.”
He identified one of the biggest political stories of the last century as the beginning of that collapse.
“Watergate changed that,” Hume said. While he praised the work of Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, he said the idea that “two young journalists” could bring down a president was “pretty damn heady stuff.”
“It showed how much power the press – and individual members of the press – had,” Hume said. “It attracted people who wanted power. And power corrupts.”
Hume made his name at ABC News during the 1970s and 1980s, covering Congress and Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton before joining upstart FOX News in 1997, where he served as Washington bureau chief and anchored the daily “Special Report” newscast before stepping into his current role as the cable network’s senior news analyst.
Talking with McNulty and Kengor in Crawford Hall Auditorium, he shared stories and observations about his career covering some of the biggest stories and leading political figures of the last forty years.
Discussing the sometimes awkward rhetoric of President George H.W. Bush, Hume noted that “it’s a tremendous advantage for a president to be articulate and well-spoken.” Reagan and Clinton, he said, shared an ability to “disarm” with their charm and personality.
Hume’s comments throughout the evening marked him as a reporter from the “old school.” Shown a clip of President Clinton laying into him over a question that “any reporter” would have asked, he said the exchange delivered the “15 minutes of fame Andy Warhol promised me” and led to numerous requests for interviews on talk radio programs. “I turned them all down because I didn’t want to be the story,” he said.
A clip of CNN reporter Jim Acosta and President Donald Trump wrangling at a press conference last year was “appalling,” Hume said.
“There’s nothing wrong with challenging questions, but you don’t make a statement when you ask a question and you don’t argue with the president. You ask questions and let the answers be the answers. You want the focus to be on the answers,” he said. “It’s inappropriate. It’s unprofessional. We’re not on the field. We’re observers. We’re reporters.”
“It doesn’t matter what you think of a president. He deserves to be treated fairly,” Hume said. “Respecting him respects the electorate.”
The annual Ronald Reagan Lecture, sponsored by The Institute for Faith & Freedom at Grove City College, illumines Ronald Reagan’s contributions to America and the world. Each year, the Institute hosts an individual who worked for, knew or has produced important work on the 40th President.
Past speakers have included: Michael Reagan, Edwin Meese, Herb Meyer, Peter Robinson, Bill Bennett, Kiron Skinner, John Boyles, Art Laffer, Andrew Coffin, Peggy Grande and others. The goal of the Reagan Lecture is to promote the principles of faith and freedom to the next generation of American leaders. As students learn about the life and accomplishments of Ronald Reagan they can see the values of faith and freedom played out on one of the biggest political stages in the country.