Mediaite Q&A: Eric Bolling Talks His Latest Show, All Things Cable News, and How ‘The Real Shit’ in D.C. is Funnier than SNL
Cable news veteran Eric Bolling sat down with Mediaite recently to discuss his latest broadcasting project, a political Sunday show that airs on Sinclair (which brought him to the unfamiliar territory of local news), trying to compete with Fox News, and how “the real shit” in Washington, D.C. “is funnier than SNL” these days.
Bolling’s more than a decade of cable news experience included stints at CNBC, Fox Business, and Fox News, but prior to that, he was drafted to play Major League Baseball and worked as a Wall Street trader. In September 2017, he left his role at Fox News, where he co-hosted their daytime political talkshow The Five, after a sexual harassment allegation. On the same day that Bolling parted ways with the network, he lost his college aged son, Eric Chase Bolling, to a fentanyl-related overdose.
Now, along with his Sunday broadcast program that typically airs in the 10:00-11:30 p.m. range depending on the market, Bolling hosts a weekday online political show, America with Eric Bolling, at Glenn Beck’s The Blaze.
Bolling spoke to Mediaite about his latest work in the industry and a wide-range of other topics during an interview at the Trump International hotel bar in Washington — his local. The following interview has been edited and shortened for clarity.
Mediaite: You’re over 30 weeks into your new show, what are some of your thoughts on America This Week so far?
I never realized how big local news broadcast is, not cable. The reach is massive. On any given week, in those eyeballs-to-eyeballs on Nielsen Data, we’ll do one and a half to two times Fox in total eyeballs, two times Fox and CNN on the demo, and total households like 1.7 times. Because it’s broadcast and because we’re 93 markets, 191 stations, we have massive reach. I think the administration has picked it up because I’ve interviewed Trump twice in three weeks, Stephanie Grisham gave me the first interview — everyone was jonesing for an interview to find out who the new press secretary was going to be and she gave it to me, which ruffled some feathers. My goal was to out-do, out-guest, out-perform, out-entertain, out-host Fox News Sunday and Meet the Press. I wanted us to be the best Sunday talk show on the market. I’ll tell you, every week, no one beats our guests. The week Steve Bannon was testifying against Roger Stone, I had them both on the same show. David Smith, who is the founder and chairman of Sinclair, he came to me when I was doing town halls for him because the opioid crisis and my son — that’s how this evolved. He set up 15 town halls. First one, I had Melania Trump there, and that just made me realize I had access to high profile guests. When I was doing that … he said, “Let’s do a weekly talk show,” but it had to be on my terms. I want all the editorial on it. He gave me that. Not only did he give me that, he just built an insanely brand new, massive studio in the ABC studios in Arlington, Virginia.
Do you think you’ve managed to build a real competitor to Fox News?
My show just doesn’t go after Fox, my show is the best Sunday talk show. Production quality, the guests, the writing, I’ll put it up against Meet the Press any day. Any objective media reporter, pundit, if you’re objectively comparing the two shows, we compete with them if not beat them. When Fox and I separated … I got courted fairly heavily by Newsmax, I got courted pretty heavily by One America News, and I have the utmost respect for those two entities, but when David Smith came to me and said let’s do a deal, I had to say yes — Sinclair is a broadcasting behemoth. What I’m trying to do is bring a national political voice to the local stations, it’s a learning process for both. I have to learn how to work with management and producers used to putting up a local product; they’re kind of working with me, too. There are things I ask them to do, and they’re like, “No, we can’t do that,” and I’m like, yes we can, we have to, if we want to win we have to. So we have those internal goings on, but the product — I’m just so proud of it.
What do you think the industry will look like in 5-10 years?
Now, there’s probably hundreds of thousands of ways to get news, like from small digital platforms all around the world, individual Facebook shows, YouTube, everywhere. I think as time goes, those will have to merge, because now they’re all melting ice, they’re losing money, they’re all going to go away. Only way they’re going to survive is by consolidating. Good example: Fox Nation, Blaze, and Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire, those are the three big dogs in the conservative digital space. There’s thousands of others, satellites, that are going to have to fold into them, and maybe these three will have to fold into each other to compete, to stay alive, to float. I don’t know about five years, maybe 10. In 10 years, I think there will be a massive consolidation of digital platforms, but there will be survivors that will be big and they will compete with cable and broadcast. But it’s not there yet.
One of the reasons why some of the people in the demo are fleeing cable news is because there’s a reputation around it being safe and rehearsed. It doesn’t have the edge that online shows and podcasts have, where it’s more common to appear real and to cut the bullshit. Is that something you take into consideration?
I do a digital show, I do all of that. I take chances, I use language you couldn’t use on the broadcast show. I also push the envelope on the broadcast show. I took the monologue, and the producer asked me twice to change what I said, and I said no, let’s leave it in there. I think the way to go is broadcast interviews with a podcast link, where viewers can listen to more of an interview on a podcast if they want.
This is reportable: I’ve been talking to one of the biggest names, one of the biggest personalities in news in the world to potentially do a podcast with him or her. It would be like just what I’m doing now — a little bit of culture, a little politics. That would likely not be under The Blaze umbrella … but it would be a game changer. And it’s not Bill O’Reilly, they’re bigger than Bill O’Reilly.
On the topic of things you wouldn’t expect to see on TV, can you talk about your Blaze show that was literally taped from a bar?
We got thrown out of a bar. We’d still be there, but the bar threw us out. They said we were creating too many problems.
I always thought that was a funny situation because the green room was sort of the bar, so you’d see guests crushing G&Ts before going right on set, which I thought was great because you can have a more honest interview.
Yeah, with The Blaze show we took some chances … We kicked off that show with a bus tour, that was crazy. We took the bus from one town to the next, we had about nine people on the bus that Lynyrd Skynyrd would ride in. It got nasty at times, it got gross, but viewers appreciated it.
What I realized is that if I offer a big name guest — Grisham, Steve Scalise, Mark Meadows last week — I’ll put it on both. I’ll put them on broadcast with Sinclair but I’ll also put them on digital with Blaze, and they’ve got the whole gambit covered. I’m not sure if both of those entities are happy about it, and they may not be, but I’ll leave that up the lawyers to figure out.
Outside of your own program, do you have any must-watch shows that you’re keeping up with right now, whether it to be on TV, online, or podcasts?
So my favorite show is The Morning Show, can’t live without it because it’s so real. Love it. I watch Morning Joe religiously, it’s the only thing I watch in the morning. I think Joe [Scarborough] and Mika [Brzezinski] — and clearly I’m on the opposite side of the political spectrum — but I think they put the best politics show on TV up … I think they’re phenomenal. I watch CNN throughout the day usually. Jake Tapper I’m a fan of, I think he’s fair. Joan Walsh drives me crazy because I think she sold her soul. I don’t necessarily watch Tucker [Carlson]; I like Laura Ingraham a lot; [Sean] Hannity is a friend but I don’t necessarily watch his show.
Aside from news, what else in media is resonating with you? Movies, shows, music?
Football. High school, college, pro, any team, any time, anywhere … I’m a major classic rock and hip hop fan. You give me both. Want to see my playlist? I got Nelly, “Just a Dream” — I know it’s old. “Hypnotize,” Notorious B.I.G. “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin. A lot of Aerosmith. “Paper Planes,” M.I.A. Post Malone — big fan of Post Malone.
Now that you’re two years out of Fox, do you have any thoughts on Succession or Bombshell, these Hollywood renditions of the Fox media empire and the internal workings of the network?
I haven’t seen Succession, I haven’t seen Bombshell but I watched the trailer for it. I watched Loudest Voice [the Showtime miniseries about Roger Ailies], I thought a lot of things were very, very accurate in that. Roger was idolized — I never, ever, ever once knew what he was doing behind closed doors, I was sorry to hear what he was doing. He changed television news singlehandedly. Can we move on from there? I don’t know, I don’t know where it’s going.
I’m not going to say [media polarization] is alarming, because clearly I’ll capitalize on it by putting my show together highlighting the way the sides are pushing and attacking each other. It’s train wreck TV. We’re in an era of train wreck TV, and the bigger the train, the bigger the wreck, the more ratings you get, the more people want to hear about it. Pick a side. You need the train wreck and you need the two sides, we got that. We got a media in D.C., and it’s fucking blowing up here, it’s fucking blowing up here, man. Like never before, everyone’s outside watching what’s going to happen next, what’s Trump going to say next, what are the Democrats going to do next. It’s like, better than reality TV.
That’s a problem for a lot of the late night shows right now I think, trying to parody the news cycle. You can’t do it, it’s already as good as it’s gonna’ get.
Like Saturday Night Live’s funny, but you know what, the real shit is funnier than SNL. We’re in a strange world, we’re living in a time where the real shit is funnier than SNL — that’s never happened. Reality is a parody of reality.
Changing topics here, but as someone who’s been devastatingly impacted by the opioid epidemic, what do you think the steps toward a solution are?
We’re a drug induced society. We’ve gone from heroin, to different forms of pill opioids, to this synthetic stuff. Eric Chase died from one pill, as a college sophomore he took one, it was laced with fentanyl and he died. America is starting to realize that opioids are killers, so they’re somewhat moving away from them. But now meth is becoming a massive problem in America, we’ve gone from an opioid problem which is still there, to an opioid meth problem, it’s literally moving toward meth. Our society, for some reason — we’re addicted. I don’t know what the solution is. Awareness is just simply driving people to the next high. I literally have no answer for that and it’s a shame.
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