‘The (Surreal) Story’ on the RNC & DNC with Martha MacCallum

by Michelle Brown

Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum reports on an election season unlike any she’s seen before. 

“This is the most surreal thing we’ve ever covered.  If someone showed you masked candidates who don’t hug or shake hands a year ago, you’d have thought you were in a bad dream.” — Martha MacCallum

Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier on set in D.C. during the DNC

After a long week of late-night DNC coverage, it’s not rest and relaxation that Martha MacCallum is longing for. Far from it, she’s missing the rowdiness and live energy that has been the hallmark of the four elections she’s covered previously. 

“The convention floor, the wacky hats, the dramatic moments” — those are some of the things that MacCallum, anchor and executive editor of Fox News’ “The Story” and lead election co-anchor, relished about election coverage before the pandemic. 

While the experience has been viscerally different for MacCallum as she reported not in Milwaukee, the DNC’s headquarters this year, but D.C., it’s good to be back in the city, she says, where she is commonly seen running laps around the monuments ahead of significant political events.

As she gears up for another week of convention coverage on the RNC with chief political anchor Bret Baier, MacCallum brings with her a history of presidential election coverage and a thorough understanding of this election cycle’s cast of characters.

MacCallum and Baier moderate a town hall with Sen. Bernie Sanders in April 2019

That’s after hosting a town hall with President Trump earlier this year, a virtual one with members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and before that, several town halls with former democratic presidential contenders Sen. Bernie Sanders, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro.

We caught up with MacCallum to hear her takeaways from last week, what to anticipate from the RNC (based in Charlotte, N.C. but mostly remote) this week and her personal experience of the last few chaotic months.

Washington Life: What’s it like to be back in D.C. reporting? Any favorite spots you’re hoping to hit while you’re here?

MacCallum: It’s always great to be in DC.  Before COVID, I was here once every few weeks. The last time I was here was when we interviewed President Trump at our Town Hall at the Lincoln Memorial in May. As far as favorite spots- I love the Jefferson Hotel, but it’s not open until September. Also, the folks at BlueFinn Tavern were great to us on this trip! Love their artichoke dip.

WL: You’re a dedicated runner — Does running help you prepare mentally for asking hard-hitting questions on the job? If so, how? (And while we’re at it, do you know of any hidden gems in D.C. for a scenic jog?) 

MacCallum: I love to run in D.C.  My favorite run is to the Jefferson Memorial and through the FDR outdoor Museum there.  Then, past the Lincoln Memorial and to the WW2 Memorial, where I always stop and pay my respects to the men killed at Iwo Jima, the subject of my book, “Unknown Valor.”  Running always clears my head and gives me stamina for long days of election coverage.

WL: This is the fifth presidential election cycle you’ve covered. How would you characterize this unconventional election year? 

MacCallum: This is the most surreal thing we’ve ever covered.  If someone showed you masked candidates who don’t hug or shake hands a year ago, you’d have thought you were in a bad dream.  But it’s the story of our time. One I hope will be over soon. 

WL: Without the live crowds and in-person delegations that usually lend hype to the DNC and RNC, what do you think these virtual conventions have to offer?  

MacCallum: I am always amazed at how resilient and adaptable Americans are. I’ve got to hand it to the DNC, I thought the roll call from the 50 states was beautiful and the drive-in fireworks for Joe Biden felt just right for these strange times.  We will see how the RNC pulls it off next week.

“[Dr. Jill Biden’s] recounting of Joe going off to work four days after Beau’s death was one that will stick with me and I imagine many others.” — Martha MacCallum

WL: How do you prepare for a long night of convention coverage?

MacCallum: I try to get a good sleep, eat right, and get in a run in the morning. I keep my ear to the ground, make my calls to the campaigns, and look for details that will add color and history to our coverage.

Behind the scenes in Wilmington, Del. last Thursday, the last day of the DNC

WL: Did you find any speeches at the DNC to be especially compelling or noteworthy? Who do you think we should look forward to hearing from at the RNC?

MacCallum: At the DNC, I thought Dr. Jill Biden was excellent. It was genuine and from the heart. It had a lot of different chapters within the speech that told her story, but it felt fresh. Her recounting of Joe going off to work four days after Beau’s death was one that will stick with me and I imagine many others. 

Watch Nikki Haley at the RNC. Everyone is always looking for the future of the party on these big nights.

WL: What do you miss about election coverage during pre-pandemic days?

MacCallum: Everything. Diners, crowds, the convention floor, the wacky hats, the dramatic moments, like Barack Obama’s speech in Boston or Donald Trump’s entrance during Ted Cruz’s speech in Cleveland. I miss it all.

WL: Obviously the pandemic has changed aspects of your work, but in terms of your personal life — what’s the first thing you’re looking forward to doing when it’s safer out there?

MacCallum: I can’t wait to go to a tailgate and football game with a huge cheering crowd at Notre Dame. Or a concert at Madison Square Garden. 

WL: What have you learned about yourself the last few months?

MacCallum: That patience is not my virtue. Although I initially enjoyed some of the quiet, and definitely the long family dinners – I think we are all so ready to put this behind us!

Related Articles