I was badly bullied when I was in the seventh grade—relentlessly, mercilessly—by a group of 12-year-old girls. And it left me with a determination that no matter what, I had to throw my shoulders back, stick out my chin, and project a sense that no one and nothing could hurt me. That turned out to be a life-changing mistake.
As a lawyer, I could engage in killer litigation with the best of them. It was war, after all. I once told an opposing counsel who’d been to Harvard Law, “I can’t wait to kick your ass.” It was sheer bluster. I always felt like the provincial girl from the Albany, N.Y., suburbs who maybe didn’t deserve to be playing with the big boys on cases worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
The underlying feelings of insecurity only deepened when I made the leap from law, which I came to despise, to television news. Was I smart enough? Was I attractive enough? (I know, the hair and makeup people do a great job, but you should see me in the morning.) After a brief stint at a Washington station, I was still learning the ropes when I got to Fox News in 2004. And when I mispronounced a name on one of my first stories—and got a mild scolding from my boss, Brit Hume—I was completely dejected. I beat myself up for a week.
A few months later Roger Ailes, the network’s chairman, called me into his office. Love the look, the voice, the confidence, he said. “Now who’s the real you?”
I was stunned. I barely knew him. It was like he was using X-ray vision to peer into my soul. He told me not to fear making a mistake, just admit it to the audience and move on. “You can’t be afraid to be vulnerable,” he said.
It was what Oprah would call an “aha moment.” I slowly came to grips with the notion that my bravado was having the opposite effect than I intended. When a woman in the Washington bureau reduced me to tears—which, believe me, doesn’t happen often—Brit told me my problem was that I projected zero vulnerability.
As I began to change, it affected all my relationships. With the man who would become my husband, I was no longer putting out fake perfection, I was being the real me. It has made our love so much more rewarding.
Showing yourself, I realized, is risky; people might not like you. But it boosts the chances that other people can relate to you.
On the air, I take more chances. While discussing the Olympics, I said the word “shuttlecock” made me feel uncomfortable. I’ve got a bawdy sense of humor. So sue me.
A few months ago I got into a fierce argument with Fox contributor Kirsten Powers over my coverage of an investigation involving the New Black Panther Party; I kept raising my voice and interrupting her. Some bloggers had accused me of being a racist, and I’d had enough. But I was wrong to get angry and treat a guest so disrespectfully. I later apologized to Kirsten. Eight years ago, I could not have done that; now I’m not afraid to admit the obvious: I’m not perfect.
Interview By Howard Kurtz
Attends middle school near Albany, N.Y., and encounters mean girls.
Works as a local reporter for Washington's WJLA-TV.
Joins Fox News Channel and learns to drop her bravado.
Begins anchoring America Live on Fox News Channel.
Will cover the GOP convention with America's Election HQ from Tampa.