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In the Hot Seat: Just Dhue It

"Government has no place in journalism. It’s up to writers, reporters and anchors to keep our government and politicians accountable."

Every month, TheBlaze magazine presents a short Q&A with personalities we believe our readers would like to get to know a little better. "In the Hot Seat," the regular feature from the one and only Mike Opelka, digs into the personal lives of these people and allows a familiarity you won't get other places.

In the November issue, we featured news anchor Laurie Dhue, the face you see delivering the news every night on TheBlaze TV and hosting "For The Record." As a special treat for online readers—usually, we save print articles for our magazine subscribers—we're featuring the full interview with Laurie.

Get more of these interviews only in the pages of TheBlaze magazine—which you can sign up for here.

The most recent high-profile addition to TheBlaze TV family is an experienced news veteran. Laurie Dhue has done it all—she’s covered presidents and princes, dined with professional wrestlers (her dad was the president of the WCW) and she can also trace her roots back to one of the most famous feuds in America’s history. Join us as we put Laurie Dhue “In The Hot Seat.”

BLAZE MAG: Before joining TheBlaze, you spent more than two decades with a variety of national news outlets (NBC, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC). Have you ever publicly identified your personal politics?

LAURIE: No, and I don’t plan to start now! First of all, it’s personal. Second, at each of these networks, I was hired to report and anchor news, not give my opinion. Glenn was very clear when he brought me on board TheBlaze that my role as anchor is to let our audience know about the top stories of the day, both at home and around the world, not to share my views about those stories. And that’s my preference too. Credibility is key.

BLAZE MAG: You’ve interviewed some of the most important and influential people from all around the world. Was there one interview that surprised you the most?

LAURIE: The first time I interviewed Henry Kissinger, which was just a few days after 9/11, I couldn’t sleep the night before and was shaking when I walked into the studio. But he immediately put me at ease, and it ended up being a very strong segment. He later signed a photo taken during the interview (I have a very stern look on my face) with the inscription “Laurie—stop intimidating me with your look. With high regard, Henry A. Kissinger.” That photo is hanging in the hallway of my apartment.

BLAZE MAG: Are there any interviews that were a total disaster? Laughable? Suitable for the year-end blooper reel?

LAURIE: But of course! We’ve all done our share of terrible, funny, outrageous interviews. I couldn’t even begin to pick one. But in general, the worst interviews are when the guests are unprepared: They’re nervous, they give three-word answers, and they’re not looking at the camera. That’s when you hope and pray your producer will let you end the interview and move on. It’s pure torture for the host—and the viewers—when a guest is struggling to answer the questions. That’s why the pre-interview process is so important: You find out if the prospective guest is a good talker. Of course, sometimes the person is fine over the phone, then panics when he or she is actually on the set, under the lights and on camera.

I love blooper reels—they’re just hilarious. Who wouldn’t laugh watching an anchor screw up? I also enjoy laughing at myself. Back in the day (meaning, when I started in the business 22 years ago), there was a “pirate” blooper reel going around CNN that you could only watch if you knew the right person. I’ll never forget hearing one of the anchors pronounce Chihuahua “Chee-hoo-ah-hoo-ah.” But for the most part, blooper reels aren’t really private anymore. Everything’s on YouTube. That segment you didn’t think went so well is out there forever. And that’s a mighty long time.

A few of my very special moments (like the pole dancing story I did for Geraldo’s show) are on You Tube, but I don’t mind. It’s all part of my career. Everyone makes mistakes at work, but when you’re on camera for a living, your mistakes are very public.

BLAZE MAG: In early September, a few U.S. senators talked about the government writing actual rules that would regulate and decide what makes someone a journalist. Does this concern you?

LAURIE: Sure it does. Government has no place in journalism. But certainly it’s up to writers, reporters and anchors to keep our government and politicians accountable.

BLAZE MAG: Who is the one journalist that you considered a role model? Was there someone who mentored you in your earlier days?

LAURIE: This may sound cliché, but Diane Sawyer was one of the reasons I got into this crazy business. I shared that when I met her for the first time many years ago. Her work ethic is legendary.

I have had a few mentors along the way, all of whom have helped me in very different ways. Bill O’Reilly and Geraldo Rivera were very encouraging during my years at Fox News Channel and gave me some excellent opportunities to shine. During my time reporting from the Middle East, I learned a lot from colleagues who’d been in the region for decades and could offer me a great deal of perspective.

I wish I could say I’ve had women mentors, but that’s simply not the case, with one or two exceptions. Sadly, because this is such a competitive industry, women don’t often help each other. I’ve always found that disheartening. In the last few years, I’ve taken it upon myself to talk with younger women just starting out and offer them guidance.

BLAZE MAG: "For The Record," the investigative newsmagazine on TheBlaze TV, jumped from a semi-regular program to a weekly show this fall. Tell us more.

LAURIE: We are very lucky—Glenn has given us free reign to explore topics that the mainstream media is too afraid to touch. Nothing is off limits. Nothing is sacred except the truth. The first episode was about the NSA surveillance state and the men and women brave enough to blow the whistle. We covered this months before Edward Snowden hit the scene. That initial show set the tone for the series, which has really exploded. Since then, we’ve done everything from Christian persecution in Egypt to the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States to immigration/border issues.

The “FTR” team is top-notch—we have some of the best producers, writers and camera operators in the business. We have sources all over the world occasionally putting themselves in harm’s way to bring us information no one else has. Glenn has said more than once that if “For The Record” wasn’t on TheBlaze, it would win every award out there. I’m honored to be a small part of it.

Here are some of the topics we’re actively investigating:

  • We examine the Model Cities programs of the 1960s, with a focus on Detroit. It was one of the main targets of that program and was the first city to go bankrupt. What went wrong?
  • We have exclusive information about how enemies of the United States are using student visas to gain entry.
  • We look at why the Justice Department is working so hard to change voting laws in North Carolina and Texas.
  • We investigate terror-training facilities on U.S. soil. The extent of the network is shocking. How did these get established? What’s the role of local law enforcement?

BLAZE MAG: You have been quite public about your 17-year battle with alcoholism. Was there a specific incident you can point to—a “pivot point” as Glenn often calls it—when you knew that something had to give?

LAURIE: Addiction is a disease that affects every American family in one way or another. It’s one of the biggest health-care issues in this country, costing us nearly half a trillion dollars a year. It is an insidious, deadly, patient disease that can rob people of everything. It robbed me of many things and should have killed me.

Now I didn’t set out to become an alcoholic, of course, but along the way, drinking became something that was fun to something that was necessary. For so many years, I lived a secret, double life full of pain and shame and sadness. The woman the world saw on TV was not the woman I saw when I looked in the mirror. I hardly recognized her. I wasn’t really living; I was merely existing. It was utterly terrifying.

My moment of grace—the moment when I knew the gig was up, that I was going to die unless I stopped drinking—happened in March 2007. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was physically, spiritually and emotionally bankrupt. I couldn’t imagine not drinking but knew that if I kept it up, I wouldn’t make it to 40. I was blacking out a lot. I was hung-over at work. I was irritable. I was wasting my life. One of the turning points was my sister’s pregnancy with her first child. It occurred to me that I should get sober for this unborn baby so that he or she would have a sober aunt, a fun aunt who showed up for things—not an aunt who was too hung-over to get on the plane home for the soccer game or school pageant. It was all about my niece or nephew. Well, that unborn baby is now 6 years old and his name is Robert. His brother Thomas is 3. They are the joys of my life and two of the biggest reasons why I stay sober. I never, ever want them to see me drunk.

That was six-and-a-half years ago. Now I have a very happy, healthy, fulfilling life full of adventure, laughter and serenity. I get to travel around the country, sharing my experience, strength and hope with a wide variety of audiences. I am on the board of a couple of recovery foundations. I have worked with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. I get to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. It is such an honor and a privilege to bring the message of help and hope to those who are suffering or those who have friends and family members who may be alcoholics or drug addicts.

Glenn has been incredibly supportive of my advocacy work. As a person in long-term recovery himself, he understands how important this journey is and the benefits of living a sober life, one day at a time.

BLAZE MAG: Reading your history, it’s hard not to ask a question about growing up in a home where your father was at one point the executive vice president of World Championship Wrestling. Were you—are you—a fan? Do you have a favorite wrestler? Did you ever consider getting into that business—not necessarily in the “squared circle”—but in general?

LAURIE: Wow, you did your homework! Indeed, my father, Bob Dhue, ran WCW for a few years and to call it an adventure would be a major understatement. I called him to ask for a few stories. One of his favorites was when he and some other executives and promoters went on a European tour with a few of the wrestlers. When they were in Munich, one of the wrestlers lost part of his ear in the ring during a match. A couple of days later, that same rough-n-tough guy was reading Shakespeare on a bus ride from London to Manchester. Isn’t that great? On one occasion, a few wrestlers and promoters had dinner at my parents’ house. Really wish I could have been there.

The wrestlers Dad worked included Arn Anderson, Big Van Vader, Sid Vicious, Cactus Jack and the Nasty Boys. He really loved working with them and said they were honestly nice guys. I agree—every time I dropped by his office to say hi, I’d see them without their masks and outfits, just shooting the breeze, and they were always polite and funny. I suppose my favorite wrestlers were Dusty Rhodes and “Nature Boy” Rick Flair. Now I’m dating myself.

Dad was also president of The Omni Coliseum, the sports and entertainment arena (which has since been replaced by the Philips Arena) that was home to the Atlanta Hawks, the Atlanta Flames (which moved to Calgary in the early 1980s), concerts, NCAA basketball, the Ice Capades, Ringling Brothers Circus, you name it. Dad worked with just about everyone: Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Liza Minnelli; The Bee Gees; John Denver; Bette Midler; Luciano Pavarotti; Prince; Hank Williams, Jr.; U2; The Grateful Dead; Garth Brooks; Rod Stewart; The Eagles; Willie Nelson; BB King; Neil Diamond; Ted Nugent. That’s just scratching the surface. You name a performer or band, he ran the show. I got to go backstage dozens of times over the years. You can imagine how popular I was in school!

I was very interested in getting into arena management, following in my father and grandfather’s footsteps (My maternal grandfather, Bob Kent, was a legend in the business and has a lifetime of stories about everyone from James Brown to Elvis to Pete Maravich). But after my first internship at CNN, I knew it was my destiny to get into TV news!

BLAZE MAG: Blaze readers would be most surprised to learn that …

LAURIE: … I am a Hatfield, as in the Hatfields and the McCoys! My great-great-great grandfather was William Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield. He most assuredly did not look like Kevin Costner (who portrayed Devil Anse in the excellent 2012 History Channel miniseries “Hatfields & McCoys"). When people hear this, they are shocked. But a friend once said, only half-jokingly: “Well, that explains a lot about your personality.”

BLAZE MAG: If you could have just one legitimate superpower to use for one hour each day, what would it be?

LAURIE: I live in New York City and would love the ability to fly over traffic.

BLAZE MAG: I never leave home without … 

LAURIE:

  • … my iPad. What did we do before them?
  • … my iPhone, though I am still resentful about giving up my ancient, beloved Blackberry. At some point I will figure out how to type with both hands.
  • … comfortable shoes. If I need to wear heels, I carry them in my bag.
  • … a sweater or shawl. I’m always cold.

BLAZE MAG: If you had 10 days with absolutely no work responsibilities. If you could go anywhere, do anything, where would you go? What would you do?

LAURIE: It’s much too difficult to narrow down, so I’ll pick a few options:

  • The Monterey Peninsula, specifically Carmel and Pebble Beach: Probably my favorite spot on Earth. I love the smell of the Cypress trees, the chill in the air, the chance to hit the golf ball, the trip on 17-Mile Drive.
  • Moscow-St. Petersburg-Helsinki: I have never been to this part of the world and am very curious. I’ve always wanted to visit The Hermitage.
  • My favorite tiny island in the Bahamas: I’m not naming it! The sand is literally pink and as soft as sugar.
  • The Scottish Highlands: The land of my people. I’ve only been to Edinburgh and St. Andrews and would like to venture to the northern reaches. I have visions of waking up in a castle, walking along the moors, devouring hearty food and enjoying daily bagpipe serenades.
  • Lake Como and Portofino: I nearly fainted when I visited both of these magical places. Just sheer breathtaking beauty—and of course you can’t get a bad meal anywhere in Italy.

Read our regular "In the Hot Seat" interviews only in TheBlaze Magazine. Click here to get a FREE digital version today!

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