My Washington: Margaret Brennan

by Virginia Coyne

A conversation with the host of CBC News’ ‘Face the Nation.’

CBS “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan. (Photo: Chris Usher/ ©2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc.)

Margaret Brennan was named moderator of “Face the Nation” in February of 2018. On September 11 she gave birth to her first child. And earlier this year she conducted a headline-making sit-down interview with President Donald Trump. We asked Brennan about her whirlwind year.

Washington Life: You’ve been at the helm of “face the nation” for over a year now. what has been the most memorable moment?

Margaret Brennan: The highlight so far has certainly been the interview we did with President Trump on Super Bowl weekend. That was fascinating and exciting. He made a lot of news, including on Iraq and the future of troops in Afghanistan.

But I think the most human moment, and the one that surprised many people was his answer to my question on whether he would allow his own son to play football. A lot of parents can relate to weighing the ups and downs of letting their child play the sport, and I thought it was a very human moment when the President said, “You know, I’m a huge football fan, but probably not.”

WL: You are currently the only woman anchoring a Sunday politics show (and you gave birth to a son six months ago!) Do you feel added pressure because of your gender?

Margaret Brennan: I feel more observed because of that. I’d love for the fact that I’m a woman to just be a characteristic, not a novelty. (Pause) What is the honest answer to that? Does anyone else have a six-month-old baby right now and have to manage breastfeeding and cramming for interviews? Probably not. Is that too much information? Maybe. But it’s a reality for many of us who are juggling demanding work and motherhood. Are things different for me as a female host? Yes, they are. But does that change the quality of work I do? No.

WL: Speaking of juggling things, on top of your hosting job, you are also your network’s chief foreign affairs correspondent. How does this administration’s foreign policy differ from those you’ve covered in the past?

Margaret Brennan: Oh, it’s incredibly different. In past administrations, there was a unified view and policy being articulated, but that’s not the case in the Trump White House. For instance, as we all saw, the president undermined his own negotiator ahead of talks with North Korea. [Editor’s note: moments after answering this question Brennan laughs and interrupts the interview to share that the President had just tweeted that he was reversing his own Treasury Department’s sanctions on North Korea. “ That underscores the point I was just making about the administration being at cross-purposes,” she explains.]

WL: In light of the controversy surrounding the comedienne at last year’s White House correspondents’ dinner and the fact that the president has never attended, do you think the dinner is still relevant?

Margaret Brennan: Yes, it was awkward and uncomfortable last year, but to the extent that it is still a funding mechanism for scholarships for journalists, I think it’s important. That’s really what the dinner is supposed to be about. I do think making fun of ourselves, being self-deprecating, is a good thing. Mocking people, on the other hand, is something that’s always going to make me uneasy, so I hope whatever note is struck this year that we don’t get too caught up in ourselves. I also hate when the media talks about itself, which we do a lot.

Margaret Brennan’s top spots in and around Washington: 

Rasika West End is where my husband [Yado Yakub] and I went on our first date (or at least I thought it was a date; he wasn’t so sure). It’s still one of our very favorite places to eat.

We love the Jefferson Memorial. Yado and I are both University of Virginia graduates, so Thomas Jefferson has a certain resonance for us because he founded the school. It’s also where we took our engagement pictures.

The White House and its surroundings. We were married at Decatur House and took wedding photos in Lafayette Park with the White House behind us.

Columbia Heights, where I live, is one of my favorite neighborhoods. I think there’s great energy there. And it’s full of young families and good restaurants.

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