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November 5 2018

Harris Faulkner

by Charlotte Hays

When what she jokingly calls her "fake news lashes" have been applied and the lights on the set go up, Harris Faulkner is every inch the Fox News celebrity.

Faulkner is the unflappable, Emmy Award winning co-host of Fox's popular Outnumbered news and politics talk show, featuring four sharp-witted women hashing out the meaning of the day's events with their lone male guest, who may often feel outnumbered.  Immediately afterwards, Faulkner sticks around to host her own show, Outnumbered Overtime, which has a more hard news format.   

A testament to her extraordinary success, the laser-focused Fox news anchor has received the ultimate acknowledgement of you've-arrived status--being portrayed on Saturday Night Live (twice so far). Comedian Leslie Jones "does" Harris Faulkner on SNL.

 “She did a pretty good job on ‘SNL’ — I mean, the girl even had my fake news lashes on!" Faulkner told Variety magazine  (which, by the way, named Faulkner as one of fifty up and comers on its New Power of New York list).

And yet behind it all, what makes Faulkner tick is that she is still the grounded military brat, who grew up all over the world. Faulkner is the daughter of Lieutenant Colonel Bob Harris, a high ranking Army officer and combat pilot who completed two tours of duty in Vietnam, and the late Shirley Harris, who as an Army wife made homes for her family from Kansas to Germany. 

Colonel Harris served under General and Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell at the Pentagon. Mrs. Harris, who loved watching her daughter deliver the news on TV, died in 2016.

Harris Faulkner, 53, was born at Fort McPherson in Atlanta, Ga., and lived part of her childhood in Stuttgart Germany. She married former journalist Tony Berlin, now a public relations specialist, in 2003--she likes to say that she "had my Tony before I had an Emmy"--and the couple has two daughters.

"I always knew that I would be a storyteller or a writer in some way," she says, "because I was just exposed to such incredible people who could communicate.  My father has a beautiful voice.  When he was stationed in Vietnam--and most of your readers won’t even know what a cassette tape is--but back in the day, he would record in the battlefield. I just knew I wanted to have a voice that commanded that type of respect like my father did."  

What values did growing up in a military family instill in her?

Patriotism for one thing. "My father said our nation is a beacon of inexhaustible innovation and love and generosity, and he knew that we would find our way through and around and out of decades of pre-civil rights challenges," she tells IWF. "He loves this country, and so when you ask me what shaped my point of view, it was seeing somebody love something so much that he would give his life for it, and having it be something that was imperfect, but perfect in its thirst for the future, and freedom, and becoming great. The two of them together—my parents— really impressed upon me the value of loving this nation."

Faulkner celebrated the values of the military family with the publication of her second book, 9 Rules of Engagement: A Military Brat's Guide to Life and Success (Harper) in June. Brat, by the way, Harris writes, isn't a commentary on the personality traits of Army kids--it actually stands for Born Raised and Transferred. Faulkner writes that it is an endearing term signifying that the whole family is called upon to make sacrifices. The budding journalist in Harris had kept a diary, which forms the basis for the book. The book is about self-discipline, striving, and being inspired (and also inspiring others). "When you grow up in the company of leaders, as I did," writes Harris, "you understand that this greatness is something that is cultivated."

From her diary, Harris deduced the rules that have guided her. "The first chapter of the book is about recruiting your own special forces," she says. "That’s the first rule of the 9 Rules of Engagement.  My Dad taught me that, and to this day, every now and then when things get a little bumpy in my life, I say 'well, wait a minute, who do I have on my team?' You can be kind and helpful to all sorts of people, but your inner circle, your squad, your special forces, are people who are chosen for your mission--and you for theirs." Shirley Harris told Harris always to have a contingency plan, just in case plans don't work out, advice she now passes along to her own daughters.

Harris, however, hasn't had to have a contingency plan. She wanted to be a journalist from an early age. "I always knew that I would be a storyteller or a writer in some way," she says, "because I was just exposed to such incredible people who could communicate.  My father has a beautiful voice.  When he was stationed in Vietnam--and most of your readers won’t even know what a cassette tape is--but back in the day, he would record in the battlefield--and it might take weeks to get those recordings. But I would listen to him tell ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas on that cassette over and over and over.  And I just knew I wanted to have a voice that commanded that type of respect like my father did.  So, I wasn't sure if it would be news casting or teaching or something else--when I'm not on television I'm a motivational speaker, faith-based usually--and so there was some way, shape, or form that my voice and my storytelling would come into play.  That much I knew."

Harris had an uncanny ability to get people to tell her things. "I would go around interviewing people, and they would tell me their business. And my mom didn't want me to turn into a gossip. And I'd say 'Mom, I’m just collecting what people tell me.' And I would ask questions and people trusted me.  And what I learned from that is that the biggest responsibility of the journalist is to be able to listen and keep your mouth shut -- which is why listen and silent, as my mom would tell me, have the same letters." 

Her new book 9 Rules of Engagement: A Military Brat's Guide to Life and Success is about self-discipline, striving, and being inspired (and also inspiring others). "When you grow up in the company of leaders, as I did," writes Harris, "you understand that this greatness is something that is cultivated."

Harris graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara with a B.A. in mass communications. She landed an internship at a station in Los Angeles before working as a reporter and anchor at the CBS-affiliate Greenville, N.C. She then moved to an anchoring job with WDAF-TV, a Fox-affiliated station in Kansas City, Mo., in 1992, where she was acclaimed Best Female Anchor for five years running.

It was also here that Harris went through one of the most devastating experiences of her life. A former boyfriend from North Carolina stalked her and threatened her life. The threats seemed unending. He broke into her house and scratched obscene messages on her car. It went on two years before the case went to court and he was penalized.

The anchor became the story when the news broke, Thanksgiving weekend in 1995. Faulkner relied on faith to get through the ordeal, writing her first book about the experience, Breaking News: God Has a Plan--An Anchorwoman's Journey Through Faith (Leathers). She had gone to church with her family and managed to find time to say prayers in a busy life. "I was working 50, 60 hours a week at the beginning of my career," she recalls. "And I would find time to pray, but you know, prayer a lot of times is about talking for us.  I would go to the Lord on my knees and I would be bla-bla-bla.  And I would wonder, well why don’t things happen?  Why don’t things change? And part of the reason was because I don't think he could get a word in edge-wise.  So, you know, the Lord’s probably up there in heaven going 'Is she ever going to stop talking?'" The stalker changed that.

When the story broke, she felt that the whole world knew she "had somebody in my life who was controlling me more than I was controlling my own life.  And that made me hit my knees in a different way. Because I knew I didn’t have all the answers, and I had to listen.  And I did. When I speak to audiences of all ages, I tell them the familiar saying:  The test is the testimony that you give later.  And I add my own take:  Life is the only place where you have to take the test first and get the lessons after."

"I love it when my husband gets the door on date night.  I embrace my femininity.  You don’t have to give it up to make sure that there’s parity," Harris says.

After  Kansas, Harris went to KSTP-TV, the ABC-affiliate in Minneapolis -St. Paul, where she met Tony Berlin, who was a reporter at CBS.  Tony went on to found Berlin Media Relations in New York. "He loves to come see me speak and I love to watch him in his mode of getting people ready for big events wherever he’s booking them and placing them.  I love to watch him succeed too.  And that's very important," Harris says. 

Their daughters are Bella, 11, and Danika, 9.

Harris joined Fox News Channel in 2005, after a stint with the 21st Century Fox national magazine show, A Current Affair.  She followed that by substituting as a host for her friend, Nancy Grace’s show on CNN. 

She has won six Emmy Awards for TV journalism.    When the Outnumbered talk show debuted in 2014, the Daily Beast's Lloyd Grove described co-host Faulkner as "a willowy African-American with smoky eyes, a fabulous jawline, and a perfectly modulated broadcast voice" who was also "keeper of a device she calls 'the dress color wheel.’” In other words, the ladies talk about what they will wear on the set: "Heck, it’s not like we’re doing radio,” she said when Grove brought up the dress color code. That points to something always noticeable about Faulkner and the varying cast of four women who join her daily on Outnumber's sofa--they tend to be great conversationalists with an ability to marshal the facts--and are also feminine. "I love it when my husband gets the door on date night.  I embrace my femininity.  You don’t have to give it up to make sure that there’s parity," Harris says.

If you'd like a chance to experience Harris Faulkner's down-to-earth Army brat charm in person, she will be mistress of ceremonies at IWF's Woman of Valor dinner, honoring Ambassador Nikki Haley and Gentleman of Distinction Mike Rowe at Star Constitution Hall, November 14.  



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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