Ed Henry had an interview scheduled with Bill Clinton. It was a relatively sleepy week in Washington, the State of the Union was approaching, and the young reporter planned to ask the president about his relationship with Congress.
Things changed. News of the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, and what was supposed to be a routine sit-down turned into a 15-minute phone call brimming with executive denials: “not sexual,” “not improper,” “not true.”
That was 1998, and Henry was a staff writer at Roll Call. It was kind of a big deal for a journalist at the beginning of his career.
“I remember back then having some of the more gray-bearded reporters look down on these young hungry journalists,” Henry says. “We would outrun them on a lot of these stories, and they would ‘tut-tut’ that we were young and didn’t understand the whole story.”
Now Henry has yet another impeachment trial to cover — this time as co-anchor of “America’s Newsroom,” Fox News’ midmorning show. As he gets ready to start that new job on Monday, he’s sounding a little gray-beard-esque himself (minus the beard).
“When scoops are just tweeted out, I think a lot of the context can be lost,” he tells me. “There are far too many journalists who are in a rush to be first, instead of being right.”
“I don’t leave myself out of it,” he hastens to add. “In the 24-hour news cycle of cable, we don’t always get it right.”
Henry has been a Fox News staple for a while, joining in 2011 to cover the White House after leaving CNN. He’s also served as the network’s chief national correspondent and pulled weekend duty on lightning-rod opinion program “Fox & Friends.”
It’s hard to imagine Henry as the wonkily irreverent voice behind Roll Call’s Heard on the Hill column, but that’s exactly what he was during the Clinton impeachment years.
“You could have an item about one senator, you know, whispering something to another senator in the cloakroom, and it would start a five-alarm fire,” he says.
It meant exploring the intersection of cage fighting and Congress, or calling out the GOP staffers who partied with Jim Belushi at the Capital Grille.
It also meant scrounging for details that would make sense of an impeachment process that was on the one hand rigidly formal and on the other thoroughly salacious.
Henry recalls a chaotic day in which the presumed next speaker of the House, Robert L. Livingston, copped to an extramarital affair and suddenly announced he would resign. (There are shades here of Henry’s own career; he stepped away from Fox News for a few months in 2016 after reports emerged of an affair.)
The same day, Henry spotted future Speaker John A. Boehner on a smoke break in the lobby. “What’s that quote? ‘May you always live in interesting times,’” Boehner recited to Henry. “To hell with that.”
Back then, Henry was young and “broke,” sharing the newsroom with journalists who went on to gain notoriety, including Paul Kane (Washington Post), Jim VandeHei (co-founder of Axios), Mark Preston (CNN) and Norah O’Donnell (CBS).
As he takes his place behind the desk of “America’s Newsroom,” he’s not that scrappy Hill reporter anymore. Lately he’s the guy who got tweet-stormed by Donald Trump for asking a guest some questions about Ukraine. “Ed Henry just got his ASS handed to him,” retweeted the president, whose love affair with Fox News appears to be cooling.
“I tried not to take that personally,” Henry says, noting that he sometimes clashed with President Barack Obama too.
Monday will bring another milestone for Henry, this one personal. It’s the week his sister will return to work after recovering from a liver transplant, made possible when Henry agreed to become her donor. (The liver is the only internal organ that can regenerate itself, which makes live donation an option.)
Henry made the announcement during an emotional segment of “Fox & Friends” in July.
“I’m used to delivering the news and without emotion, and I almost immediately lost it,” he says. “It was very cathartic.”