MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel. This Tuesday marked the final Election Day for Brit Hume in the Fox News anchor's chair. Hume has been a central figure at the news channel since its early days. He brought it credibility that he'd earned investigating corrupt public officials as a young reporter and later covering the White House for ABC News. Now, as NPR's David Folkenflik reports, Hume says he no longer has the hunger for the job.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK: The man looked like he was having fun anchoring Fox News channel's election coverage.
(Soundbite of Fox News broadcast)
Mr. BRIT HUME (Anchor, Fox News): That will change our electoral board from 220 votes to 275 and make Barack Obama, in our view, president-elect of the United States of America.
FOLKENFLIK: It was an exclamation point for Hume's decades-long career covering politics.
(Soundbite of Fox News broadcast)
Mr. HUME: And there you see flashbulbs popping, American flags in the breeze, and people jumping up and down, applauding, and yelling with joy.
FOLKENFLIK: Hume will soon become a part-time pundit. David Broder, the dean of the Washington Press Corps, says this was the most exciting race in decades. But Hume says he's lost his enthusiasm because of...
Mr. HUME: This poisonous atmosphere in Washington over the past, oh, I'd say 14 or 15 years. But it makes news because sparks are being struck. Sparks are what make news. There's dissent and disagreement, intense feeling, and so on, which all contribute to an untidy and ugly at times, but newsworthy, atmosphere.
FOLKENFLIK: Fox News is itself a home for all kinds of rancor. Certainly, President-elect Barack Obama has questioned his treatment by Fox.
How much do you feel that your own channel has contributed to that?
Mr. HUME: Well, we've certainly been a forum, as everybody else has, for the arguments of the day. We are more a reflection of it, I think, than a cause.
FOLKENFLIK: Hume cuts an elegant figure in pinstripe suits and pocket squares, and he's known for his mordant wit and his love of a good story. He's seemingly a quintessential establishment figure. But his friend and former ABC News colleague Chris Wallace says Hume went to cable upstart Fox in 1996 because...
Mr. CHRIS WALLACE (Anchor, Fox News Sunday): He felt a frustration with what he saw as the liberal lockstep and mindset of the mainstream media in general and ABC in particular.
FOLKENFLIK: ABC, of course, would take issue with that. Wallace later joined Hume at Fox News, but says originally...
Mr. WALLACE: I'll be honest. I thought he was crazy.
FOLKENFLIK: Wallace says Hume set clear journalistic standards for Fox News. Hume points with pride to reporters such as Carl Cameron and Major Garrett, separating them from two nighttime fixtures, the bombastic Bill O'Reilly and the hard-line conservative Sean Hannity.
Mr. HUME: Now there certainly is a lot of talk during our day programming, but there's a lot of reporting going on too. And the anchors by and large are pretty straight because I think essentially at the end of the day we've got the word "News" in our name, and we have to be a news channel first.
FOLKENFLIK: When canvassers for the advocacy group ACORN turned in thousands of voter registrations with clearly fictitious names, Hume encouraged reporters to pursue it. He says the issue was largely being ignored, and Fox covered it relentlessly, even Tuesday night, although few cases of actual voter fraud have turned up. Eric Burns was a media critic for Fox News for a decade.
Mr. ERIC BURNS (Media Critic; Journalist): So I think Brit in effect created something that hadn't existed before, a slight bias, for want of a better term, toward the right, as opposed to what we have on the shows that make so much news today which is an overwhelming bias either toward the right or the left.
FOLKENFLIK: So when Vice President Dick Cheney shot a hunting companion and delayed revealing it, he gave a rare interview to a sympathetic figure.
(Soundbite of Fox News interview)
Vice President DICK CHENEY: I turned and shot at the bird, and at that second saw Harry standing there. I didn't know he was there.
Mr. HUME: You had pulled the trigger, and you saw him.
Vice Pres. CHENEY: Well, I saw him fall, basically.
FOLKENFLIK: Hume now says he'd rather spend far less time on politics and far more time with his wife and his grandchildren. He says he wants to study the Bible too. It's time to pursue life off the air. David Folkenflik, NPR News.