Ex-ESPN reporter Britt McHenry thrilled about Fox News success, but regrets calling out Eagles defender Chris Long
When Britt McHenry criticized Chris Long, she heard about it from one Eagles fan in particular… her mother.
Former ESPN personality Britt McHenry has managed to upset a lot of people during her sometimes dramatic transition from reporting on SportsCenter to discussing politics on Fox News… including her own mother.
Despite growing up in Florida, McHenry is a Burlington County native, and her mother, Margie, is a lifelong Eagles fan. So when McHenry went after Eagles defender Chris Long on Twitter back in May, her mother didn't do much to hide her displeasure.
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"She was upset with me," McHenry told the Inquirer and Daily News. "Don't say anything about any one of the Eagles' players or coaches. That's the rule with my mom."
McHenry was widely lambasted (including being labeled the "jerk of the week" by the New York Daily News) for criticizing Long's decision to donate his base salary to charity after the defender shared a lengthy statement about the NFL's policy change over the national anthem (which the league later reversed).
It's one of the many tweets the 32-year-old rising star at Fox News wishes she could take back as she gains more experience as a political pundit and attempts to hone her voice in a crowded marketplace of ideas that often ends with the most outlandish opinion drawing the greatest amount of media attention.
"I regret the Twitter interaction with Chris Long because no matter how politically passionate I might get, at the end of the day, any contributions to charity are positive," McHenry said.
McHenry was one of the nearly 100 on-air journalists laid off by ESPN last year, but she's still probably best known for being caught on video verbally attacking a towing company's cashier after her car was towed in Arlington, Va. She later apologized for her "hurtful actions" and said the stress over the incident became so intense it led to her vision becoming blurry and caused her right eye to grow cloudy.
Since then, McHenry has allowed her conservative opinions to flow freely, often popping up on Fox News to rail on issues ranging from the Colin Kaepernick-led protests of racial justice during the national anthem to calling out "liberal identity politics" on Fox & Friends, President Trump's favorite cable news show. She even opined to Tucker Carlson about the "left wing" climate she claimed forced her former employer to pull an announcer from a University of Virginia football game in Charlottesville because his name happened to be Robert Lee.
The next step in McHenry's career as a political pundit is the premiere of Un-PC, a new show she's launching alongside former wrestler Tyrus on the new Fox News subscription streaming service, Fox Nation. John Finley, the senior VP of development and production who is overseeing Fox Nation, said he wanted to pair McHenry with Tyrus from the start due to their shared background in sports.
"Something that's unique is that Tyrus and Britt have only really been making appearances on Fox News for the past few years, so it's still pretty fresh for them and their excitement comes off across the screen," Finley said.
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McHenry and Tyrus have been doing rehearsals of their new show for weeks, and she described Un-PC as a cross between the vibe of Greg Gutfeld's Fox News show and PTI, the long-running sports opinion show on ESPN hosted by Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon. New episodes of the show will be available to Fox Nation subscribers on Thursday and Friday nights.
In an interview with the Inquirer and Daily News, McHenry talked about dealing with her conservative viewpoints being labeled "inauthentic" and reacted to a comment made by her former ESPN colleague, Jemele Hill. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
On making the dramatic leap from SportsCenter reporter to conservative opinion host:
The NFL had gotten very political. Donald Trump was elected and I found myself being much more interested in stories that involve social issues and culture. I just became much more fascinated with politics than who was inactive on Sunday.
[While at ESPN] I had discussed some ideas with my agent at the time, who I'm no longer with, about wanting to try to enter the conservative world… we had a philosophical difference. So that was hard. That was one of the first obstacles of many.
Behind the scenes I had switched agents and switched gears before the layoffs happened. I just hadn't been very public about it… I had a year left on my contract at ESPN so it would have been a year where I was trying to see what I wanted anyway. Then, of course, the layoffs happened, so it sort of made that decision for me.
On former ESPN colleague Jemele Hill telling the Washington Post, “It just seems like she’s playing a character.”:
When I saw that in the article I just was a little in disbelief over it because we've only met once… How would she know what versions of me there are when you only met me once in the SportsCenter newsroom?
It's not like Jemele and I never tried to be friends. I wasn't up in Bristol [ESPN's headquarters. McHenry was based in Washington, D.C.]. We didn't interact. So that was upsetting, knowing the truth.
I have vehemently disagreed with Jemele Hill on several issues, and we would probably disagree on just about everything… But even when I would discuss the controversial things that she had said or done at ESPN, I never personally disparaged her. I always thought and I still think she's a very smart woman. So I felt a little disappointed in that quote, because I thought she wasn't reciprocating that behavior towards me.
On having her authenticity constantly questioned by critics:
I'm certainly not making anything up about what I say. Of course there are times we all get a little too passionate. There's definitely a few takes where I thought the next day, 'Well, maybe I could have scaled that back.' But why is it that conservatives always get blamed for being inauthentic or doing things for money and it's never questioned the other way around?
There was a former football player ESPN personality who accused me and [Fox Sports radio host] Clay Travis of making up our views to make more money, and I just sort of had to laugh because at that time I was still laid off… I just want to be vocal for other conservatives in this country. I want to be able to say what I believe and now I have the platform to do that on Fox.
On future endeavors she’d like to launch on Fox:
I want to do an athlete series where I interview different athletes who've been outspoken about their political beliefs.
One example that always pops to mind for me is Geoff Cameron. When he was on the U.S. men's national soccer team and spoke out in support of the travel ban, that was really controversial, and he had to deal with a huge blowback from fans.
On the possibility of interviewing Eagles defender Chris Long:
(laughter) That would be a tense interview, but it would make my mom very happy.