When I first met Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News Channel, I wanted to see if he was serious about being "fair and balanced," which is the famous Fox motto. We talked for many hours, and I got it that Roger meant what he said. We all have our personal political views — anybody who says journalists and broadcasters don't have views is just plain lying — but the key issue is what you put on the air.
People have opinions on talk shows — that's the point. They are opinion shows. The best examples are The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity and Colmes. The news shows are about the news, and opinion plays no role. Of course, there are occasions on all networks when opinion does slip into the presentation of the news, but the viewers are smart and can discriminate between fact and opinion. And the viewers are bright enough to decide for themselves where they stand on an issue.
I have lived in Washington, D.C., for more than twenty-five years. This place is all about politics. That's the business of Washington. Conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans have fought each other for decades, but often they have been personal friends. They can stand on the Senate floor and give passionate oratory about the North American Free Trade Agreement and then go out and enjoy dinner with their opponents. George McGovern says Bob Dole is a good friend. Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch reportedly play tennis. That's the way it should be.
Over the last few years that I've been in television I've met some hard-core conservatives, some of whom have challenged me, assuming I was a stereotypical white-wine-and-Brie liberal.
I like to listen to some of them really step deep into it for their assumptions about me and my political ideas. I can see them thinking, Hmmm, educated lawyer in her forties (late, late forties), all those years on CNN, criminal defense lawyer-her position on Clinton's impeachment must have been because she is a liberal Democrat. (In fact, I thought the Starr investigation was constitutionally misguided! High crimes and misdemeanors relate to professional, not personal extramarital, conduct. I never said I was in favor of his personal conduct — I was not — but merely that it did not meet the constitutional standard for removal.)
I have never publicly defined myself as a liberal Democrat or conservative Republican, but of course others believe they know what I think about every issue. I have seen both sides and had fun debating both sides.
Pat Buchanan once told me that he nearly fell over when he was reading a book and discovered my background. He was stunned that my father, who I adored, was Joseph McCarthy's campaign manager in 1946. People in Washington often make wrongheaded assumptions about your background, your education, everything you believe in. The fact is that nearly everybody in Wisconsin knows about my family's background, but the Beltway is a long way from the Midwest.
It's the truth. Appleton, Wisconsin, is famous and infamous for several things, not just Willem Dafoe and me, and one of them is Joe McCarthy. He was born on a farm near Appleton in 1908, a few years before my father, who was also born near Appleton. Joe was the fifth of nine children, and his parents were devout Roman Catholics. My father was one of thirteen children and was also from a Catholic family.