Tonight (at 10 p.m. ET) is the last-ever episode of Stossel, the weekly Fox Business Network program that for seven years explained free-market principles better than any show on television. Host John Stossel, as he explains here in his weekly column, is moving on to other pursuits, including creating great content right here with Reason TV, and he will still be a contributor over in the Fox building.
His final episode, appropriately, is a survey through the show's persistent and often hilarious attempts to illustrate difficult-to-visualize libertarian concepts using props, costumes, stunts, and engaging conversation, including with such beloved locals as Katherine Mangu-Ward (pictured) and Kmele Foster. I am honored to be one of the two live guests on tonight's program, along with our great friend and frequent collaborator Kennedy. And therein lies a brief story.
I first met Kennedy in June 2011 in the exact same place you'll see us tonight: in Fox's Studio D, sitting next to John Stossel. This was during an hour-long special he very generously put together to discuss The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America, which I had freshly co-written with Nick Gillespie. It was a galvanizing moment—I had been doing increasing amounts of cable news, but had never seen anyone with as much TV charisma and quick wit as this former VJ. Soon she would begin collaborating regularly with both Reason TV and Stossel, the latter of whom brought her on as a special correspondent even though he didn't know half the time what the hell she was talking about (which, in typical John fashion, he would say out loud, on television).
Lloyd Grove at The Daily Beast would later recount how the seeds of what would eventually flower as The Independents were planted at a Reason Weekend in Puerto Rico in February 2012. Stossel, Grove wrote,
served as a mentor and helped recruit Kennedy to the six-year-old network. "She's a libertarian and I love that—there aren't many libertarians on TV," Stossel says, adding that Kennedy "is much more of a performer than I am. She lights up the screen."
Some of their bonding occurred in the middle of a beach volleyball clinic that Stossel ran during a Reason weekend retreat in Puerto Rico. "He was in volleyball shorts and shirtless, and the man is in better shape than most 20-year-olds I know," Kennedy says of the 66-year-old Stossel, who had been using her as a special correspondent since the summer of 2012. "He's a really meticulous person, and his libertarian views evolved over time. I think when you start out as a liberal and you come to be a libertarian, you tend to be really forgiving of other people's political evolution, and you realize that people can change and come into their own. Libertarians can be loners. A lot of us can feel like misfits."
Kennedy was like a unicorn for Stossel: A libertarian who was already great at television. For the rest of his run, John labored at the largely thankless and rarely acknowledged task of training questionably dressed free-market types like me to be less like Broadcast News' Albert Brooks and just a wee more William Hurt-ish. There were the green-room coachings ("Don't bore people with a bunch of numbers!"), the on-set eye-glazes when you wandered off point, the cutting quips about questionable ties. It was tough love, but, well, you have to consider the raw material here.
The result of Stossel's conscious exertions is that the universe of camera-ready libertarians is much larger and considerably more polished than it was seven years ago. (Judge Andrew Napolitano's late, lamented Freedom Watch also deserves a shout-out here for giving reps to us rabble.) Next-generation shows like Kennedy get to take their libertarianism more for granted precisely because Stossel had done the shovel work (*cough*) of introducing fundamental concepts and breaking in nerds.
So thank you, John Stossel, not just for making a damn fine program for millions of Americans, but for helping groom some of us to make our own TV programming, now and into a bright future.
And make sure, everyone, to tune in at 10 p.m. ET and again at midnight, to see what Kennedy and I have in store for the 'stache!
UPDATE: Stossel was on Kennedy last night; here's the video: