Martha MacCallum on the Men of Fox News, Donald Trump, and Her New Show

January 16, 2017, 3:00 PM UTC
Courtesy of Fox News

After a series of major shake-ups at Fox News—the ouster of chairman Roger Ailes, the departure of high-profile anchors Greta Van Susteren and Megyn Kelly—it seems the dust has finally settled.

Last week, the network announced its new primetime lineup for the first quarter of 2017: Tucker Carlson will take Kelly’s 9 p.m. slot and Martha MacCallum will take Van Susteren’s 7 p.m. hour, launching a brand new show called The First 100 Days. The three-month series, which premieres Monday, will look at how president-elect Donald Trump is tracking on making progress towards his campaign promises.

Fortune caught up with MacCallum to talk about her new show, her thoughts on the Fox News game of musical chairs, and what she’ll be watching for these next 100 days.

The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Fortune: How did The First 100 Days come about? Was it your idea to do this kind of series?

MacCallum: After having covered this extraordinary election cycle, it just felt like the perfect thing to do a 100 days show. There’s so much focus on what [Donald Trump] is going to accomplish. He’s already had an unprecedented president-elect period and we expect that he’s going to continue to be extraordinarily active during his first 100 days so we want to sort of hold his feet to the fire on the promises that he’s made.

What can viewers expect from the show?

[There will be] some panel discussion, reporters. We’re also going get feedback from regular folks, from voters, tracking over the course of the 100 days how they think he’s doing. We’re hoping that they’re going to represent a cross-section of people out there in the country who really turned the tide for him…Are they satisfied? Are they getting the president that they voted for? We’ll [also] have people like members of the former administration, press secretaries, as well as people in the administration who will answer our questions throughout the week as well.

What are some examples of issues you will be tracking throughout your show?

You can feel the anger that is still out there. You can feel the venom and the concern by some that it’s not legitimate. He says he wants to be president of all the people of this country—we’re going to be seeing how he reaches out to people.

Earlier this month, New York Magazine‘s Gabriel Sherman said that the Murdoch family (who control Fox News parent 21st Century Fox (FOX)) wanted to get a Trump supporter in the primetime slot. How do you manage to stay impartial as a journalist with these kinds of rumors floating around?

The overwhelming perspective is that we’re going to continue to be fair and balanced. We definitely have our parts of the evening that are more opinionated, but no one will be encouraging me to look favorably or unfavorably on this administration. What they’re counting on is my judgment and my experience to bring a news perspective to this story. That is my job and no one would ever persuade me to do it any differently—otherwise, they would have picked someone else. I know that those journalistic principles are extremely important to Rupert Murdoch and that’s exactly what he wants me to do.

After Megyn Kelly announced that she would be leaving the network, there was a lot of speculation that another woman would take her 9 p.m. slot. Were you surprised at all when Tucker Carlson got the gig?

I was hugely enthusiastic about it. If I were in the shoes of the executives making those decisions, I would have put Tucker in at nine o’clock. His show is doing really well, he’s so dynamic. He’s a good friend of mine and I think he’s terrific so I love the idea of putting him in at nine. I don’t look at these things through a gender viewpoint, I felt like a 7 p.m. news program coming off of Bret Baier, with me at seven o’clock and then moving in to Bill O’Reilly’s hour, is a really fantastic lineup.

That may be the case, but you have to admit that gender has been a huge part of the conversation at Fox News in recent months, starting with the sexual harassment lawsuit against Roger Ailes. What has it been like to be a woman at Fox News these past few months?

Last summer was definitely a rough time, with all of the news that came out. I think it rocked everyone for a little while, and I think that’s understandable. I don’t see it carrying through in terms of any negativity at Fox. I work with an extraordinary group of people. The way that some of these things have been presented don’t reflect the workplace that I know.

The big news this month has been that Fox News settled a suit against Bill O’Reilly from a former anchor around the same time that the Roger Ailes suit was happening. You’ve worked closely with O’Reilly in the past. What do you make of this news?

I’ve done a segment on his show for many years and we’ve always gotten along very well. We had a very professional relationship. I don’t know the details of that claim or that settlement and I really can’t comment on it further than that.

What do you make of the two big departures from two of the network’s biggest female stars: Megyn Kelly and Greta Van Susteren?

The changes that have been made in terms of Megyn leaving and Greta leaving, I think those were professional decisions. I think they’re very separate. Megyn had been with the network for a very long time and she had a tough decision to make. I’m so happy for her—I think she made the decision that was right for her personally and I’m thrilled for her. As for Greta, she left, she took a chunk of time off and I’m happy that she found a new home. These are both women who I have really good relationships with and who both reached out for me to tell me how happy they are for me and for the show that I’m going to be doing.

What have been the biggest challenges for you professionally—at Fox and as a female journalist in general?

I don’t see things in terms of gender. As a working woman, having worked in the morning all these years, I can say that it’s a work-family balance that has worked really well for me. If I had any hesitation about doing a new show it was that I was going to miss out on evenings with my teenage boys. I know that’s a struggle that women have when they make these choices. They are very personal and very real, but I have found Fox to be very considerate when it comes to those issues. That’s something that’s not going to go away.

It’s interesting that you say that, as so much of the reporting about Megyn Kelly’s new show has been about the fact that she took on the new daytime role at NBC because it would allow her to be home for dinner.

I get it and there have been times along the way through my career when I have passed on things because that was really important to me as well. I completely understand the decision that she made, her kids are younger and starting school now and she will never regret having those evenings with them—that much I can promise you. My kids are older, in high school and college. They said to me: ‘Mom, this is a really great opportunity for you and we’re excited for you and we want you to not hold back.’ My kids are in a different moment, but I completely sympathize with the way she felt about that.

What are your plans for after the 100 days? Is there another show for you on the horizon?

We’re going to cross that bridge when we come to it. I love doing my morning show with Bill Hemmer. We’ve had an amazing record together, we have a great team, so we’ll see. Honestly, we haven’t crossed that bridge, but we all came up with this idea and we felt great about it so we’ll revisit that as we go through the process.

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