Dana Perino can punch and parry with the perfect of them. However she might be higher at ducking.
In 2008, when Ms. Perino was the White Home press secretary for President George W. Bush, she bought clocked within the face with a growth microphone within the scuffle that broke out after a journalist threw his sneakers at Mr. Bush.
“I had a black eye for six weeks,” Ms. Perino, now an anchor for Fox Information, mentioned in an interview final week from her sun-dappled Higher West Facet condo.
That sort of fracas — and the almost two years she spent taking questions from reporters within the White Home briefing room — could also be good preparation for her subsequent act: moderating the Republican presidential debate on Wednesday in Simi Valley, Calif.
Will probably be the largest second for Ms. Perino at Fox Information since she started co-hosting “The 5” in 2011. Not identified for being as provocative or partisan as a lot of her colleagues behind the desk, Ms. Perino, 51, has spent a great a part of the final decade attempting to thrive as a Bush Republican working for a community the place loyalty to former President Donald J. Trump is commonly the ticket to excessive rankings and the profession development that accompanies them.
Ms. Perino, who additionally co-hosts the two-hour morning information present “America’s Newsroom,” is likely one of the comparatively few White Home aides to make the leap from politics to information anchor. She says she modeled her transition after two different former West Wing employees members who had made the transition — George Stephanopoulos, the ABC Information anchor who served as Invoice Clinton’s communications director, and Diane Sawyer, additionally of ABC, who was an assistant to Richard M. Nixon.
Present and former colleagues mentioned that she has managed to persevere at Fox by being neither a Trump supplicant nor fierce critic. Through the raucous discussions on “The 5,” she will be able to typically be seen ducking the fray, flashing a figuring out smile as her co-hosts mock Mr. Trump’s liberal antagonists.
And he or she feels no have to ship the pro-Trump monologues that different conservative hosts have made a staple of their packages.
“If she tried to faux it, she is aware of individuals would see by her,” mentioned Tony Fratto, a former Bush administration official who labored with Ms. Perino within the White Home and stays a good friend. Mr. Fratto mentioned that Ms. Perino’s independence was one thing she was decided to maintain whereas working her approach up on the community.
“She’s very rational and respectful of individuals with completely different views,” he mentioned.
Ms. Perino is likely one of the few Fox anchors to have by no means interviewed Mr. Trump. And he or she doesn’t seem particularly keen to take action.
When Dominion Voting Methods sued Fox Information over its promotion of conspiracy theories regarding Mr. Trump’s loss in 2020, a few of Ms. Perino texts together with her colleagues grew to become public, revealing how little she considered the previous president and his claims that intensive voter fraud price him the election. She mentioned as a lot on air as nicely and informed Mr. Fratto, who was representing Dominion on the time, in a single textual content trade how she was being threatened. “The maga persons are crushing me for it,” she wrote, “and I even have loss of life threats now.”
Requested final week whether or not she would favor it if Mr. Trump participated on this week’s debate — he’ll skip it, as he did the controversy final month in Milwaukee — Ms. Perino wasn’t precisely brimming with enthusiasm.
“Certain,” she mentioned. If she have been advising Mr. Trump, she mentioned, she would encourage him to go. However she additionally mentioned she believed his absence presents his rivals with alternatives to interrupt out in ways in which have eluded them up to now.
She mentioned she believed that the final debate, which was hosted by her Fox Information colleagues Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, was not significantly profitable for the candidates as a result of they spent a lot time interrupting one another.
“The candidates decided to interrupt the principles, and to speak over one another,” she mentioned.
She won’t draw back from interrupting them in the event that they do the identical, she mentioned. And he or she doesn’t concern taking part in the function of schoolmarm if she must. (Her co-moderator within the debate, Stuart Varney of Fox Enterprise, isn’t any shrinking violet both.)
“I’m pleased to be that,” she mentioned, including that she hopes that isn’t needed. “I feel that for them, they need to not need that both, proper, as a result of it didn’t assist them. If you concentrate on that debate, there was no consensus of who received.”
Getting ready for the controversy could be a thankless process, as many moderators earlier than her have found. The candidates typically dismiss the fastidiously drafted questions the moderators have written.
Buddies and former colleagues mentioned that Ms. Perino has a knack for preparedness that exceeds most.
“When she would put together President Bush for press conferences, you’d undergo the anticipated questions,” mentioned Ed Gillespie, who served as counselor to the president throughout Mr. Bush’s second time period. “A query would come, and it might be one which Dana mentioned would come. After which there can be one other that Dana mentioned would come. And a 3rd. And each single query can be one which Dana mentioned would come.”
Her Fox colleague Greg Gutfeld, a fellow host on “The 5,” mentioned he pokes enjoyable at her for the way she involves the present armed with a pocket book stuffed with concepts based mostly on the information articles which might be driving the day. “In contrast to me, she reads the articles. She’s just like the grade-A pupil in your class,” Mr. Gutfeld mentioned. “She doesn’t throw it in your face. However she’s ready.”
Former colleagues mentioned that Ms. Perino wasn’t one to tug her punches when it got here to briefing the president, which she at all times got here to extensively prepped.
“If you happen to’re getting ready the president, it’s a must to do it properly, after all, since he’s the one who was elected,” mentioned Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state throughout Mr. Bush’s second time period. “However you additionally should be keen to say, ‘Mr. President, that reply isn’t going to fly.’ Dana did that. And I feel President Bush revered her for it.”
Ms. Perino’s second act as a information anchor places her again the place she began her profession proper out of faculty. After working as a disc jockey on the in a single day shift at a rustic music station in Pueblo, Colo., she graduated from the College of Southern Colorado and moved to the Midwest, ultimately touchdown a job as a reporter for a tv station in Champaign, Ailing. She determined a lifetime of masking native information — vacation parades, municipal authorities conferences — wasn’t for her.
“I didn’t see how you would get forward shortly. And I had an ambition,” she defined, including that she by no means noticed herself changing into “the substitute for Tom Brokaw.” When she left native information, she mentioned, she thought that will be the tip of her time in tv information. “I actually thought if I do that I’ll by no means work in TV once more.”
Her first huge job within the Bush White Home got here in 2006 when, after holding a sequence of communications jobs all through Washington, she was employed at age 34 because the deputy press secretary underneath Tony Snow, a former host of “Fox Information Sunday.” He stepped down in 2007, after being recognized with colon most cancers. Mr. Bush named Ms. Perino as the brand new press secretary.
“She will deal with you all,” the previous president told the room of journalists. Now, she is the journalist. And the G.O.P. presidential candidates must deal with her.