Summit Speaker: Bret Baier
BRET BAIER of Fox News is one of the highlighted speakers at the 2015 Summit . . .
If there’s one reason Bret Baier delivers a “fair and balanced” newscast, it certainly has to do with his Catholic faith. Growing up in Atlanta, he gravitated toward two loves: golf and journalism. Golf didn’t pay the bills, so he pursued television news. And when his son Paul was diagnosed with congenital heart defects just hours after being born, the Fox News Channel’s Special Report host says prayer got him through. He tells the story in his book Special Heart: A Journey of Faith, Hope, Courage and Love. He spoke with Patrick Novecosky, Legatus magazine’s editor-in- chief.
Tell me a little about your upbringing.
I had a great life as a kid. I was born in New Jersey in a traditional, upper-middle class family. My dad was [an executive with] Sunoco oil and got transferred to Atlanta. I went to Catholic school. I went to St. Jude’s elementary school in Atlanta, then on to Marist School in Atlanta, and really came into my own in figuring out who I was.
We went to Mass every Sunday. I was an altar boy. It was something I just assumed everybody did. It just became part of my culture. And then when I went to Catholic school, it became more engrained. It was a big deal. A lot of the guidance from priests and brothers who were teachers really helped me grow, not only in the faith, but as a person.
Now, when I went to college it was a different story. It was not a Catholic college and, as happens with a lot of Catholics, there’s a falling away part of your life. [Faith] just wasn’t one of the top priories of fraternity life and college life and golf team.
What were your ambitions as a young man?
I always knew that I wanted to do something in front of people. I did theater in high school and really enjoyed that. I wrote for the school paper, and putting those two together I interned at a TV station in Atlanta. First it was sports, but then I really thought news was intriguing. Then I started studying more about politics and history and fell in love with that. So really early on I got to the point where I wanted to do reporting. I had this tunnel-vision right from my junior year of high school.
You just celebrated your 10th anniversary. How did marriage change you?
It changed me in a number of ways, just the whole sharing of yourself with someone else and realizing that person is who you’re supposed to be with. For the longest time it was just me solo, putting my head down and working. Then suddenly there was another element to it. It was this “team aspect” of it — it was no longer just me striving, but us. I think that really helped me in my career, and it really helped me move forward.
Then when we got to the birth of Paul, I really realized that I had chosen the right person. When you’re down, she’s up or you’re up and she’s down — and you help each other through the toughest times.
How did your faith help you through this and subsequent surgeries?
Faith was crucial. I try to paint that picture in the book. I don’t shy away from it. I lift it up in the fact that we were lifted up by these hundreds of prayers coming over email as I sent out those emails updating everyone. What came back were beautiful inspirational prayers from short to very long, detailed from everybody — from priests at the Vatican to a southern Baptist pastor to friends and family to people that we’ve never even known, viewers. Reading those with Amy as we sat there next to Paul’s bassinet gave us hope and enabled us to get through every day.
He’s had three surgeries. How is he now?
Paul will have to have an angioplasty within a year or two, and that will be an overnight stay. And then in five to seven years, he’ll have another open-heart surgery, and that will be a tough time. It gets tougher and tougher each time it happens. And prayer takes us through.
He’s had seven angioplasties and the stomach surgery that was unrelated to his heart. He’s doing great. He’s in first grade. You’d never know on the playground that he had any problems. He’s the tallest kid in his class. He has a great relationship with his brother — for the most part. They fight like any brothers do, but they’re normal. Both of them are in the same school.
The thing I’m striving for now as a Catholic is to get to the place that I was in the lowest points [during his illness] in my level of prayer — not just waiting for the toughest time to have that deep relationship, but to have it all the time. It’s a challenge for people, because you need it.
You’re in a high-profile job with a ton of pressure. How does your faith help you?
I rely on it heavily. I think it helps ground me. When the world is spinning faster and faster, the occasional close-the-door-and-meditate-in-prayer is helpful for anybody no matter what your religion is. It’s the vehicle that takes you to that place and calms you down. I try to do that — turn off the computer and just have a moment. I have a church down the block down here on Capitol Hill that I take a stroll to on occasion, especially if it’s a really tough day. It lifts me up.
I think faith a very important part, and it gives you perspective. I know that going through what we did gives you perspective on what’s important and what’s not. Sometimes we get mired in the small stuff. After going through what we’ve been through, hopefully it helps us relate to families across the country who have bigger things on their plate.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A condensed version of this interview was published in the December print version of Legates magazine.