You have more direct contact with people out there. The funny thing about TV is that you're sitting in a studio staring at a piece of glass — the lens. When you're on the radio you get interaction and you can be a lot more creative. I love talking about a lot of different topics. I also love playing music — I am going to be playing music on this show. And finally, I love the intimacy with the audience. For instance, when people who've seen me on TV come up to me in an airport they call me “Mr. Snow.” When people who've heard me on the radio come up to me they call me “Tony.”
What will you bring to radio to set you apart from the other talk shows?
There are too many angry talk radio hosts. I can't figure out what they are angry about. Most of them are rich and they live in the greatest country on the face of the Earth. Sure we've all got worries. We worry about terror, we worry about causes we care about, but man, we're unbelievably lucky. I think there is a way to talk about all the issues and have a sense of confidence rather than a sense of fear, anger, or rage. I'm certainly going to be making my political views known, and from time to time I'll get into fights with people, but the idea here is to have fun with it. To be able to do a talk radio show is an unbelievable blessing.
What part will listeners play in your new show?
The one thing I've learned is that you always learn from a listener. There are people who know stuff you don't know; they've had experiences you haven't had. The fact is that listeners are the most important part of any talk radio show: It's how you establish your connection with people all around the country, and it's how you figure out if you're doing well or poorly. The listeners are really the core of any good talk radio show.
How did your time working in the White House affect your outlook?
When you've worked in the White House you understand that it's unlike any other place. It's just different. It's got its own culture. It's got its own set of rules. It's got its own clock. You're living in a bubble. It's a bubble in which human history takes place. I was there for the collapse of Communism. I was actually the last person in the diplomatic reception line to shake hands with Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife three weeks before they were toppled from power. It gives you a sense of history. To work in the White House is to suddenly figure out what a magnificent institution it is and also what a weird institution it is. It really does call on all your time, energy, and attention in a very concentrated way for however long you're there. Everybody who's ever worked in the White House, Democrat or Republican, gets it. It's like a secret society. You get along and you help each other out. That's one of the dirty little secrets — people who've worked in the White House tend to be friendly across political boundaries because we've all been through the wars together. We know exactly what it's like, we've got sympathy for each other, and we've got great war stories.
What was the most memorable interview you've ever conducted?
There are several. One was with Tariq Aziz, then Saddam’s number two guy, in Baghdad about three months before the war. They asked us to come there for reasons that are still a mystery to me. We went there and had to move around Baghdad with our minders. We had spies tailing us. I had done a fair amount of traveling in the old Soviet Union, so I was pretty used to that. It actually was a lot like the old Soviet Union in 1989, although a little more prosperous. We went up to the Hall of the Council of Ministers, which was supposed to be Saddam's offices. Of course, Saddam wasn't there. As a matter of fact, nobody was. It was bizarre. We went into this big building that was supposed to be the nerve center for the government of Iraq and there were two guys watching TV on the fourth floor. It was fabulously opulent — there were marble floors and Persian rugs, and nobody there! It gave you a sense that in many ways it was all a house of cards when it came to Saddam.
Another fun interview was with Bono of U2 over in the Capitol building. He had a handler who wanted to hold everyone to about four minutes for the interviews. The handler was being a total jerk. He was literally taking swings at this woman who was working with me. But Bono liked the interview, so we kept doing it. We were talking about debt forgiveness, the Pope, and all sorts of stuff. It was a fun interview, but the greater fun was trying to get it done. We were sitting in this little room and you could see the door get pushed open and then slammed shut, then pushed open and slammed shut. My producer was fighting this guy who was 6' 5"; she's 5' 5" and she's fighting with all her might to prevent him from barging into the room and cutting off the interview.
How did you make the transition from a philosophy major in college to journalist?
I was a philosophy major only because I couldn't figure out what I really wanted to do. I loved math and English and I figured philosophy was down the middle. The point is, I wouldn't pull my chin and think deep thoughts. I just always loved writing. Then a friend of mine recommended me for a tryout for a newspaper job in North Carolina 25 years ago. That's how I got into the business. It was strict writing ability that got me there.
What could you absolutely not live without?
My wife. It's true. It's literally true. Let me see, what else could I not live without? Everything else is sort of a poor second!
Do you have a talent that would surprise people?
I am part of an "old fart" rock band that does a lot of covers. I’ve also been able, over the past couple of years, to play with a lot of sensational musicians — people you may have heard of. I've played flute, sax, guitar. I am trying to learn keyboard, but I am not brave enough to try that on the stage yet. The most fun I had recently was back in November when Ian Anderson, the front man for Jethro Tull, was doing a solo concert and I ended up not only being the MC, but also I engineered it so I could be the "local band." He wasn't sure whether I'd be worth a damn. He sent me music for a duet piece we were going to play. Turns out they sent me his part rather than mine. I had to memorize the other part in the hour and a half before the concert. He could figure out — just based on the playing — that I knew what I was doing, so I ended up playing not one number but three. We ended up doing dueling solos on a couple of them. It was great! A blast!
Another thing that may surprise people: I taught in Africa. I taught physics and East African geography in Kenya after college, because I didn't know what I was going to do with my life. So, I went off and taught in a secondary school there for a while, and then I came back and ended up stumbling into a journalism career. It was a real kick. I loved every minute of it.
If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one music album, what would it be?
Oh boy! Oh boy! Somebody would just have to drop an I-Pod on there with about 100,000 albums and let me cheat. I cannot imagine being stuck with just one album.
Who's had the greatest influence on your life?
This is going to sound cheesy, but it's true: my dad. My mom died when I was a kid. My dad's a guy who's been through a lot of hardship in his life, and he's always weathered it well. He is one of the most decent and wonderful people I have ever met. Whenever I give a speech or a tribute to him I always get choked up. He is a wonderful human being. My father is the kind of person who raised his kids not to be rich or famous. He wanted us to be happy and he wanted us to be good — not necessarily in that order.
What's the best part about working for FOX News?
The best part about FOX News is that it has the most entrepreneurial culture. This is the Wild West — that’s what I like about it. When we started the cable channel, a little more than seven years ago, nobody gave us a chance. They thought this was the network of the "Simpsons." We went from zero to number one in about four years. No one ever thought that was possible. I’ve never been through anything like it in my life. Now, the same thing is happening in radio.