Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, political commentator and presidential candidate, has found himself a new home. After leaving his highly-rated weekend talk show on Fox News in 2015 to run for president, he’s the centerpiece in a new strategy for the world’s largest faith-and-family broadcaster to attract new viewers.
Taping on the network’s 40+ acre Trinity Music City property outside of Nashville in Hendersonville, Tennessee, the new show, airing Saturday and Sunday nights, features elements of the former, such as music and political commentary. According to Huckabee, however, the show will also allow more “openness” to discussing matters of faith.
As the finishing touches were being put on his premiere episode, including a sit down interview with President Donald J. Trump and music by Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night, Huckabee and I sat down to discuss his new network and show, his relationship with President Trump, and fatherly pride in daughter Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ role as White House Press Secretary.
Your first guest is President Trump. What will you ask him about?
I’m sure now we’ll be dealing with everything from Puerto Rico to shootings in Las Vegas and tax plans that are coming up. But I also want it to be a personal interview. I don’t want it to be something you could see on any news network, because what I want to do is get into who he is, what makes him tick. I know him on a personal level and I know there’s a side of him that most of America doesn’t see, doesn’t know. I’d like for them to know him as a person. Some are still not going to like him. That’s okay. It’s America, they don’t have to. But I want them to better understand where he comes from. It’s something I learned. I guess I first started knowing him a little over 10 years ago. You come to the realization, ‘This guy’s basically just a New York street fighter.’ He grew in Queens, tough neighborhood. He scratched his way where he is and there’s a real part of him that he’s just – what I like about him – there is an authenticity that some people find off putting. They’re repulsed by it. To many people’s surprise, I find it refreshing that he doesn’t pretend that he’s something in my presence that he doesn’t act like the rest of the time. He is who he is. Sometimes I wish he’d be a little more like me, but you know, that’s not who he is.
I remember when we spoke nearly two years ago, after your campaign ended, that you called Trump as getting the nomination and then the presidency.
I said that throughout the process and people thought I was crazy. They really, truly did. At Fox, I had so many deep discussions with people that would say, “There’s no way.” They would use this phrase, “There’s no pathway.” I’d say, “I’m going to tell you something. He’s going to do it.” And right up until election night, they were telling me I was nuts.
So what was election night like for you?
Oh, it was awesome. Everybody was in shock but me. I was walking around in the green room at Fox and these smug anchors and others who’d been so adamant about “There’s no pathway,” I’d say, “What are the latest reports? Did they call anything?” You could see smoke coming out of their ears. It was embarrassing that they didn’t know.
How’s your daughter Sarah Huckabee Sanders doing as press secretary?
She’s doing great. She’s having a great time. It is challenging job and yet I’m so proud of her, because she really is centered both morally and spiritually. She knows who she is. She’s comfortable in what’s she’s got to do. She respects the press. She goes out there and she doesn’t let the tension of that room escalate out of hand. She keeps it calm and she answers plainly, bluntly but professionally. She shows them respect, I think. I’ve had many of them who I know personally from either campaigns or worked with them at Fox or whatever, have been very complimentary in ways that they didn’t to be.
Did you encourage her to do it?
I saw you were here to interview Dolly Parton.
She’ll be on our second show. Our show will have a great mix of people from the entertainment world, people from the political world and then people maybe from the business or the healthcare, but people who have something to say that helps our audience. I’m not interested in having people just come and toot their horn. I want it to be ‘How does this help my viewers? How does this change their lives?’ That’s what we’re always looking for, to explain something to them, make it more vivid.
With it being on TBN, is there more of a push to include matters of faith in each broadcast?
There’s not going to be an attempt to force it. There will be always an openness if it naturally lends itself. For example, if I have a guest on whose life was truly changed by faith, what’s different about having this show on TBN verses Fox, nobody’s going to be afraid of that story being a part of it. Nobody’s going to say “Let’s don’t get off into that, because that’ll confuse or anger people.” So we’ll be free. But I want it to be honest and true and if a person doesn’t have a faith story, I don’t want to try and make one up. I’ve seen that in some Christian shows. It’s like, “Tell me about your faith.” “Well, when I was 8 years old, I went to church one time.” “Oh, that’s wonderful!” We’re not going to do that. If a person is not a faith person, we’re not going to assume that they are. This show does not book people based on that. I’ve said this many times. This show is not a Christian show, it’s a show hosted by a Christian. That’s really the best way I can describe it. My job is to provide a wholesome atmosphere, engage in civil conversation, and let people be who they are authentically. If they are people of faith, I want to hear that part of their life. If they’re not, I don’t want them to come and pretend they are for the 30 minutes they’re with me.
I know you’ve talked about how much music will be a part of this show, which is also a big part of your personality. What other parts will be present?
Humor will be a major part of this show, not only my wisecracking from here and there. I want the viewer and even my guests to have a good time. We’ll have comedians on. Laughter is a great medicine. In fact, there’s a biblical verse in Proverbs that says, “Merry heart doeth good like a medicine but a bitter spirit dries up the bones.” There is medicinal value to laughter. It actually physically releases endorphins into the body that is a natural painkiller.
Any other guests besides Trump you might want to mention?
Dolly Parton, Charlie Daniels, Ricky Skaggs, Oak Ridge Boys, and Point of Grace. I knew those girls when they were in college back before they were Point of Grace, back when they were ‘Say So.
Speaking of music, you’re taping in Conway Twitty’s old stomping ground. Do you have a favorite Conway Twitty song?
“Hello, Darlin,” of course! Conway was a great artist and he was one of the first people to really crossover from rockabilly into true country. Most people just think of him as a country artist, but he was immensely successful in the rockabilly world before that. He was the first of many who made that transition but he did it, I think, before anybody and did it more effectively. I used to play his records as a DJ in Hope, Arkansas, and later in Arkadelphia, that’s how I paid my way through school. I spun a lot of Conway Twitty songs. So it’s kind of cool to come here.
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