Greg Gutfeld could be called irreverent or biting. Or you could call him an asshole.
But he’s fine with that—it’s kind of his shtick. Gutfeld first drew buzz as the editor of Men’s Health, then at the helm of Stuff, back in the heyday of the so-called “lad” magazines. He moved over to edit the U.K. version of Maxim in 2004, and after getting fired in 2006, became a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.
But his presence on Arianna Huffington’s website hardly meant he was in solidarity with her politics—Gutfeld is far to the right of his former editor. Since 2007, he’s been the host of Fox News’ Red-Eye With Greg Gutfeld, which airs on weeknights at 3 a.m., and last year he became a panelist on the same channel’s show The Five.
Gutfeld’s coming to town to promote his new book, The Joy of Hate: How to Triumph Over Whiners in the Age of Phony Outrage, which claims that the left pretends to be tolerant but isn’t—at least when it comes to conservatives. It’s no surprise that a Fox News host finds his own network “fair and balanced” while most other media outlets are far from it, but Gutfeld’s take-downs—of which there are many—are more likely to use humor to make their point. Gutfeld’s no Bill O’Reilly-style ranter (although the former editor of Stuff and Maxim going on about his “dislike for porn” is a bit rich).
Like most political polemics, it’s unlikely to change anyone’s mind on the other side, but if you’re looking for the perfect holiday gift for your Fox News-watching relatives, a signed copy might be just the thing.
Throughout your career—at Stuff and at Maxim and now on Fox News—you’ve been known as something as a provocateur.
I never really thought about it as provoking. When I was pitching stories or working as an editor looking for ideas, it was more about finding something that had a kernel of honesty in it that hadn’t been told before. If it was construed as provoking, it was probably because it was surprising.
You’re doing a show for Fox that is pretty different than the rest of their lineup—you’ve got a younger audience, I’m guessing, with the 3 a.m. time slot, and you try to incorporate humor into your show. What’s it like having a humorous show on Fox?
I look at the news, and I look at how we can present it in an interesting way. I don’t really look at the age of my audience. I look at the intelligence level of my audience. I try to present news in a new refreshing way that’s fun and surprising. I think we have an audience of all ages, young and not young, that want something different.
How has the transition from print to broadcasting been?
It’s challenging. But whenever I do something I prepare a lot. ... The key always is to prepare. ... Also to never approach a topic with preset assumptions. That’s something most of the media does a lot, and I’ve always been fighting against it. It’s good advice for all journalists.
In your new book, you go after the left for abusing tolerance.
The left uses tolerance to shut people up. Like in academia ... nobody in academia seems to care about Bill Ayers coming to campus, but they’ll protest ROTC recruiting on campus. ... And take the Tea Party versus Occupy Wall Street. The media looked at [Occupy] in a more positive light. Like, there were crimes that were committed in the Occupy camps that were completely overlooked. But you haven’t heard of a single crime by the Tea Party. ... Socialism never works. The “greater good” is a romantic ideal.
But when the Bush administration went to war in Iraq, weren’t they justifying it as for the greater good?
I think you’re missing my point. I’m talking about the philosophy that says for the greater good you have to sacrifice the present good.
So what would your ideal country look like?
I’m for free minds and free markets. I’m pretty much a libertarian. Private always beats public. I’m always for a small government.
So did you vote for Gary Johnson in the election?
I did not vote for Gary Johnson. I’ve had him on the show, and he’s a great guy. But I did not vote for him. I’d like to see a third party gain traction. ... Although I did not vote for him, I agree with almost everything on Johnson’s platform, especially his opposition to the war on drugs.
Since Romney lost the election, there’s been a lot of talk on how the Republicans need to broaden their demographic appeal, especially to the rapidly growing Hispanic population. Is this something you think is necessary, or are pundits just looking for excuses for the loss?
I think the conservative message is the right message, but the message is always being vilified in the media. Conservatives probably need a better messenger to get it across.
Someone was saying to me over the weekend that there just aren’t any conservative comedians—on the left you have Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and any number of stand-up comics, but the right doesn’t really have that. As someone who tries to work humor into your show, do you think that’s something that can change? Or is there something inherently unfunny about conservatives?
The entertainment industry is overwhelmingly liberal. That’s just the way it is. Maybe that will change over time. But you know, I have tons of comedians on my show, and they strike me as mainly apolitical. And some are possibly conservative, but they can’t be open about that, because it would hurt their career. ... It goes back to my book—the so-called tolerant are only tolerant when it comes to what they already believe. In Hollywood, it helps if you’re a liberal, and hurts if you’re a conservative. They aren’t tolerant of anything else.
But do you really think that conservatives aren’t equally intolerant? I mean, I’m from the South, and have lived here most of my life, so I’m around a lot of conservatives, and many of them are pretty intolerant.
I guess that’s your experience, but that’s not mine. Generally conservatives I’m around tend to be fun-loving people who just want to be left alone.
(This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity and space.)