Dana Perino Breaks Down One of Her Biggest Interviews Yet: Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg
Fox News anchor Dana Perino recently had one of the biggest bookings of her career when she was able to wrangle Mark Zuckerberg for what became a more than a 22-minute interview.
The Facebook founder has been at the center of heated debate surrounding free speech, election influence, the role of government regulation and privacy. Amidst this nearly three-year maelstrom of Facebook-centric discussion and debate, it was Fox News anchor and former Justice Department and White House Press Secretary that landed the elusive interview (though NBC’s Lester Holt also got a crack as well.)
How did the longtime host of opinion show The Five-turned-Fox News news anchor get Zuckerberg to sit down with her? Perino recently sat down with Mediaite for a wide-ranging interview — and this one deserves its own post, which has been condensed for length and clarity.
Mediaite: I have to ask you about your interview with Mark Zuckerberg. I’m fascinated. That was a huge booking. How did that come about?
Perino: It was great. In 2016, I went with Tucker Carlson and several others. (In May of 2016 a number of conservative media thought leaders met with Silicon Valley execs at Facebook Headquarters.) I remember when everybody went out there for that meeting because Facebook was like, “Whoa, we have a huge problem.” About six or eight months after the 2:00 p.m. show started, I got an interview with Sheryl Sandberg.
I had done a mentoring event with Sheryl Sandberg about the most powerful women’s conference or something. Anyway, because when she wrote “Lean In,” I had written and the good news is and somebody had said, “Oh you two would really get along,” whatever. I had met her there, but I also think that they respected me that I had worked in a White House, I worked in government, and I stayed there.
Mediaite: You understood the issues.
Perino: That interview with Sheryl Sandberg was when they were dealing with a lot of heat for Russian interference and influence and not stopping it back then. That was then. I’ve kept in touch and I said, “If ever there’s an opportunity, I would love to interview Mark Zuckerberg.” He did a lot of these media participation outreach. I participated in that. I think he realizes that he is the only one who can explain his vision for his company.
I know that having been a White House press secretary. You can have all the cabinet secretaries in the world go out and try to explain your vision and the easiest thing to do is to always ask the president to go and do interviews. Mark Zuckerberg is not a naturally media-savvy kind of guy. He’s shy and he’s quiet. Did you ever read the book Quiet?
Perino: It’s about how introverts really helped create some of the most amazing innovations. I have great respect for anybody who — Well, obviously, what he’s created is incredible. In some ways, he’s had catastrophic success.
Mediaite: Unparalleled, generational… like more than a millennial success.
Perino: I think that he recognizes now Washington is coming.
Mediaite: It’s clear that he’s been on this campaign to win the hearts and minds of the conservative block. There were reports that he had recent meetings and private dinners in DC with numerous conservatives. Do you feel like that was part of the reason he came to you to curry the favor of smart, thoughtful conservatives?
Perino: Well, he also did an interview with Lester Holt last night.
Mediaite: He’s also a Republican.
Perino: That’s true. Do you think NBC is going to highlight that? I don’t think so. I don’t know. I’ve never talked to Lester Holt about politics.
Here’s what I think. I don’t think that I got the interview just because of whatever ideology I might have. I think it’s because it’s a really great place to reach a lot of people with somebody that they respect and trust. I worked really hard to build that relationship so that when they were ready, I was top of mind.
Mediaite: Well, I think that was there. You asked him tough questions. Your experience with the Justice Department, which I have forgotten about until just now.
Perino: Nobody remembers that. It was only nine months. It was only nine months of my life, but I learned so much. It was like going to one year of law school.
I learned so much. I have such great respect for the people at the Justice Department. I loved it. I’m glad that he was willing. I also worked in high-tech PR in 1999 and 2000 when the internet, the bubble, and then when I first– I don’t know who’s next on my list. I got to think of who I’m going to go after.
Mediaite: The Google guys? Jack from Twitter?
Perino: I think Mark Zuckerberg, to me, he seems more comfortable in his own skin now than where he was.
Mediaite: Totally. I think he’s just familiar with the process.
Perino: He also understands that he has to talk about it. He can’t deputize that.
Watch the entire interview between Perino and Zuckerberg above, via Fox News.
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