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Dana Perino of Fox News Braces for a Crucial Moment in Her Career as a Journalist

Journalist Dana Perino is no stranger to challenging situations. In 2008, while serving as the White House press secretary for President George W. Bush, she was struck in the face by a boom microphone amidst a scuffle that broke out after a journalist threw his shoes at the President. Ms. Perino, who now works as an anchor for Fox News, recalled having a black eye for six weeks as a result of the incident.

Her experience in the White House briefing room and ability to handle such chaotic situations may prove beneficial as she moderates the Republican presidential debate on Wednesday in Simi Valley, Calif. This will be a significant moment for Ms. Perino at Fox News since joining the network in 2011 as a co-host on “The Five.” Unlike many of her colleagues, Ms. Perino is not known for being particularly partisan or provocative, as she has strived to navigate her career as a Bush Republican in an environment where support for former President Donald J. Trump often translates to higher ratings and career advancement.

As one of the few individuals to successfully transition from politics to news anchoring, Ms. Perino says she looked to former White House staff members George Stephanopoulos and Diane Sawyer as examples. Current and former colleagues describe her at Fox News as someone who is neither a staunch supporter nor a fierce critic of Trump. While participating in the lively discussions on “The Five,” she often stays out of the fray and flashes a knowing smile while her co-hosts mock Trump’s opponents.

Unlike other conservative hosts, Ms. Perino does not feel compelled to deliver pro-Trump monologues during her programs. She believes that audiences would see through any insincerity on her part, according to Tony Fratto, a former Bush administration official and friend of Ms. Perino. He commends her independence and acknowledges her respect for differing viewpoints.

Ms. Perino has never interviewed Mr. Trump, setting her apart from other Fox anchors. When Dominion Voting Systems sued Fox News over its promotion of conspiracy theories related to Trump’s loss in the 2020 election, leaked texts revealed Perino’s low opinion of the former president and his claims of voter fraud. She openly discussed her disagreements on air and even informed Mr. Fratto, who represented Dominion, about threats she received for her stance.

When asked if she would prefer Trump’s participation in the upcoming debate (he has chosen to skip it, as he did the previous debate in Milwaukee), Ms. Perino responded with a lack of enthusiasm. While she would advise Trump to participate, she believes his absence provides an opportunity for other candidates to stand out. Reflecting on the previous debate, which was hosted by her Fox News colleagues Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, she finds that the candidates’ constant interruptions hindered its success.

Ms. Perino is prepared to interrupt the candidates if necessary and is not afraid to step into the role of disciplinarian. She hopes that such intervention will be unnecessary, as she believes it did not benefit the candidates during the last debate, where no clear winner emerged due to the incessant interruptions.

Preparation for a debate is often a thankless task, as previous moderators have discovered. Candidates frequently disregard the carefully crafted questions prepared by moderators. However, per friends and former colleagues, Ms. Perino’s level of preparedness surpasses most. Her ability to accurately predict and anticipate questions when preparing President Bush for press conferences was renowned.

Greg Gutfeld, Ms. Perino’s Fox News colleague who co-hosts “The Five,” humorously teases her for always arriving on the show armed with a notebook filled with ideas based on current news articles. Unlike him, she reads the articles and is well-prepared. Former colleagues confirm that Ms. Perino did not hold back when briefing the president and would always come well-prepped.

Her journey as a news anchor brings her back to her roots, as she started her career as a disc jockey on the overnight shift at a country music station in Pueblo, Colorado. Eventually, she transitioned to television reporting in Champaign, Illinois, after finding local news coverage unfulfilling. Initially, she believed that leaving local news meant the end of her television career, but her path eventually led her to the White House, where she served as the press secretary.

President Bush once remarked that Ms. Perino could handle anything. Now, as a journalist herself, she aims to exert control over the Republican presidential candidates during the upcoming debate.

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