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Fox News Channel’s Baier Gears Up For Inauguration

It’s been a busy 2009 for Bret Baier, who has moved into the anchor chair on Fox News Channel’s Special Report and is now gearing up for a couple of key presidential events.

Previously, the cable news network’s chief White House correspondent, Baier officially succeeded Brit Hume as the anchor of Special Report, which airs weekdays at 6 p.m., on Jan. 5. The show got off to a good ratings start, averaging 1.67 million viewers from Jan. 5 through Jan. 9, according to Nielsen Media Research. That was up 7% from the 1.56 million average for the corresponding week in 2008. Special Report with Bret Baier also scored a 3% gain among the news demo, adults 25 to 54, averaging 330,000 of those watchers, versus 320,000 in the year-ago span.

“It was a great first week, with great ratings,” he said, while acknowledging he has “tremendously big shoes” to fill. “Brit Hume hasn’t left the building. He’s still contributing to the show,” Baier continued. “Brit has been a mentor to me from the beginning. He couldn’t be more encouraging. You couldn’t be in a better position than to start a job in an anchor position.”

Tonight, Baier will turn his attention to George W. Bush’s farewell address, which the anchor believes will be akin to the president’s final press conference on Monday.

“It will be fairly short, 10 to 15 minutes. He’ll put his spin on his decision-making; that he didn’t waver from his principles. Bush will reflect on his time in office.”

Baier deflected a query about his opinion on Bush’s performance.

“[Bush administration officials] will say he didn’t let public opinion influence his policy,” he said, noting that’s obvious given the president’s low approval ratings. “He’ll be vigorous in defense of his decisions [during final speech], but not as vigorous as the other day.”

And what of President-elect Barack Obama?

“I see him to be very deliberate, surrounding himself with really smart people,” said Baier. “I think the entire country, conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, is pulling for him. But it’s going to be a challenge.”

The biggest of which is clearly the economy.

“The economy will be all encompassing during the first days, save for something unforeseen, God forbid,” Baier said. “We’ve already seen this in terms of the efforts Obama has made on Capitol Hill with Democrats and Republicans.”

That’s not to say, there aren’t other concerns. “Bush said you never stop being president from the first day on Jan. 20. There is nothing to stop the weight of the world from being on the president’s shoulders,” said Baier.

He noted the conflicts in Israel-Gaza, Iraq and Afghanistan. “Russia's playing politics with oil and fuel. North Korea's saying it’s not going to downgrade nuclear activity. There's Chavez in Venezuela. There are many issues,” he said. “Still, it’s mostly about the economy in the short term.”

Looking ahead to the inauguration on Jan. 20, Baier expects that it will “really be heavily watched. It’s democracy’s big day, a transfer of power that’s different than any other. And this is a special transfer given the nation’s history of racial segregation. Having an African-American holding that bible, it’s going to be incredibly emotional for a lot of people.”

Fox News will present continuous live coverage, beginning with Fox & Friends from 6 a.m. (ET) through 1 a.m. on Jan. 21 with the inaugural balls. 

Baier will be in the middle, kicking off the pre-inauguration coverage from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. He’ll be joined by Shepard Smith who will be live from the Newseum and Chris Wallace, who will anchor the event and the parade from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Hume and FNC’s Fred Barnes and Bill Kristol from The Weekly Standard, Juan Williams of National Public Radio, and Nina Easton of Fortune magazine will contribute to the coverage.

FNC contributor Karl Rove will provide insight and perspective, with network talent  -- Carl Cameron and Jim Angle from the Capitol, Major Garrett and Steve Centanni from the White House, Brian Wilson from the parade route, and Shannon Bream, Jennifer Griffin and Catherine Herridge from additional locations – also reporting.

Baier will host Special Report at 6 p.m. Megyn Kelly and Bill Hemmer will report from the inaugural balls in DC, beginning at 9 p.m., with Baier anchoring.  FNC correspondents Molly Henneberg, James Rosen, and Griff Jenkins will also provide updates from the various fetes.

Online, FNC’s inauguration coverage includes, “The Strategy Room” which will be live via Webcast on throughout the day, and featue President Obama taking the oath of office and the parade. Also, FNC’s Facebook page, will contain video clips of his inauguration speech, an open wall discussion of the day’s events, and photo albums of images taken by FNC reporters during the ceremonies. 

“It’s going to be lot of live TV,” said Baier. “We’re going to see the president get his move on. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”