Fox News correspondent shares his passion for politics at Rutgers
As a rookie reporter earning a salary of $14,500 in Odessa, Texas, Mike Emanuel was sent to cover an ostrich festival. Upon his arrival, he discovered there were no actual ostriches at the site.
Instead of choosing to not cover the event, Emanuel, now the chief congressional correspondent for Fox News Channel, asked festival attendees to show him what an ostrich sounded like, returning with footage of adults making ostrich sounds.
This was just one of the initiation tests he went through as a beginning reporter before he could begin covering his true passion: politics.
Emanuel, who graduated Rutgers in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in communication, gave the annual “The Albert W. Lewitt Endowed Lecture” yesterday at the Rutgers Student Center on the College Avenue campus.
The Eagleton Institute of Politics and its Youth Political Participation Program sponsored the lecture.
Emanuel was featured as part of EIP’s “Pizza and Politics” series, which encourages direct student involvement in discussing political issues. Elizabeth Matto, director of the YPPP, introduced the event.
“The mission of the EIP is to encourage and equip Rutgers students to pay attention to politics, to participate in the political process and even to be leaders,” Matto said.
A current or former member of Congress, congressional staffer or expert on Congress gives each lecture. Former speakers include John A. Lawrence, former chief of staff to Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. Rush Holt, D-12.
Emanuel has covered high-profile stories such as the 2012 presidential election where he reported directly from candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign headquarters.
Welcoming the chance to speak at his alma mater, Emanuel’s expertise on Capitol Hill and the inner workings of Congress are enhanced by his humble beginnings as a small-town reporter.
Years later, he covered a gubernatorial race in Austin, Texas, for an unpopular candidate who ended up winning an upset victory.
That candidate turned out to be former President George W. Bush.
Emanuel cultivated a close relationship with Bush, who referred to him as Mikey.
Emanuel thought the end of Bush’s term as governor was the end of his own reporting experience with Bush. Years later, Emanuel would return to work with Bush, this time as the White House correspondent during the Bush administration.
“The scariest thing is making sure whenever [the president] calls on you, you have a question,” Emanuel said. “Fortunately, I never came up empty.”
He said the biggest difference between reporting from the White House and Capitol Hill is that the former feels more compartmentalized, with formal interview sessions. The latter involves hallways with hundreds of politicians who all want to be heard.
Emanuel went on to talk about receiving an offer from Fox News, a start-up news organization at the time. Without having even interviewed for the job, he took a risk and accepted the offer.
Catching the attention of his superiors with the quality of his work, Emanuel eventually secured an interview with then-Gov. George W. Bush, helping Fox make a name for itself in the news industry.
Emanuel, who has visited the Oval Office and traveled on Air Force One with both President Barack Obama and former-President George W. Bush, remembered when other networks laughed at Fox News for being an ambitious start-up.
He admitted that he has taken some serious leaps of faith throughout his career, but is grateful that he does not have to face the regret of unpursued dreams.
“Dream big, follow your passion and be relentless in pursuit of those goals,” he said.
Katherine Kleeman, senior communications officer at EIP, commented that Eagleton wants to encourage and sustain serious and thoughtful discussions about politics.
“What we want students to take away from this is that politics is important in all of our lives and that, despite the negative aspects that often dominate the headlines, politics is not a dirty word,” Kleeman said.