Atlanta-based Fox News' John Roberts, following Trump, anticipates fascinating Republican convention

By RODNEY HO/, originally filed Friday, July 15, 2016

In recent times, political conventions were foregone conclusions, infomercials for the party and their presidential nominee.

In some ways, 2016 is no different despite tumultuous campaigns for presumptuous presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

But Fox News Atlanta-based senior national correspondent John Roberts - who has covered conventions going back to 1996 - isn't expecting a yawn fest in Cleveland next week for the Republican convention. Far from it.

"There will be unpredictability," Roberts said in a phone interview Friday from New York, where Trump announced his new vice presidential candidate, Indiana governor Mike Pence. The pending protests will "make it more interesting. It's a real concern for Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of Homeland Security. I was at the rally in Chicago that Trump had to cancel. That turned the page. There was a moment where I was thinking 'Uh oh, this could come unglued.' "

Fox News will have correspondents stationed inside and outside Quickens Loans Arena. And people are even more nervous after last week's Dallas cop shootings and the terrorist attack in Nice Thursday.

"The police are definitely worried," Roberts said. "People around the world can use anything as a weapon. It could be a bomb or a gun, a car or a truck. I've been to events with great big fences. I remember the G8 summit in Quebec City [in 2001.] Protesters scaled a fence, knocked it down."

Chances of chaos inside the arena from the "Never Trump" campaign has largely subsided. Potential for a brokered convention or a contested showdown with Ted Cruz's supporters has long dissipated.

From a journalistic perspective, Roberts said that would have be fascinating. Still, "a lot of the delegates are not particularly committed to Donald Trump. That may create an interesting dynamic on the floor."

And knowing that this is Trump, the lineup of speakers will be relatively unconventional with many standard-bearer Republican types absent. Roberts said so far, the schedule is so sparse, he's wondering how the Republican National Committee will fill all 16 hours on the dais over four days starting Monday.

And he said Trump himself is so unpredictable, he can't imagine how the next week will play out.

"Trump thrives on being unpredictable," he said. "He believes that's good for America, that policies should be less predictable. Nations around the world have come to read our responses on things."

Roberts said Trump's campaign is hard to follow because Trump frequently changes plans, forcing Roberts to improvise travel plans on the fly. Just last week, Trump changed planned locations three times in a matter of hours.

The Canadian-born journalist has covered presidential campaigns for CBS News , CNN and Fox News. With Trump, "it's like nothing I've ever experienced before. It's horrible from a logistics standpoint. I'm setting new records for sleep deprivation. At the same time, it's an adrenaline rush only covering a war can match."

His twins are too young to fully understand why he is gone so much: "I tell them that 'There's this person who runs the country who is president every four years. They go to the polls. I have to cover that person who could be the most powerful person in the world. We have to make sure we cover him very closely."

But his wife, HLN correspondent Kyra Phillips, is more understanding being a fellow journalist. He said when he is at home, he makes sure to make the most of it. And when the campaign is over in November, the family is planning a well-deserved vacation in Mexico.

"When people ask me how I deal with the travel and being away from home, I say I've got a front seat to history. Not many people get that opportunity."

Fox News will provide heavy coverage of the convention, adding a special show helmed by Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly at 10 p.m. each night.

Here's the special live programming line-up Fox News plans next week:

Monday, July 18th – Thursday, July 21st

6-9 a.m. ET – FOX & Friends

9-11 a.m. ET – America’s Newsroom with Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum

12 p.m. ET – Outnumbered

2 p.m. ET – The Real Story with Martha MacCallum

3 p.m. ET – Shepard Smith Reporting

5 p.m. ET – The Five

6 p.m. ET – Special Report with Bret Baier

7 p.m. ET – On the Record with Greta Van Susteren

8 p.m. ET – The O’Reilly Factor [Live from NY Monday and Tuesday; Live from Cleveland Wednesday and Thursday]

9 p.m. ET – The Kelly File

10 p.m. ET – America’s Election Headquarters with Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly

11 p.m. – 1 a.m. ET – Hannity

Friday, July 22

6-9 a.m. ET – Fox & Friends

9-11 a.m. ET – America’s Newsroom with Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.