Caitlyn Jenner Offers Vague Generalities, Moments of Humanity in Fox TV Interview

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Caityln Jenner at podium with arms raised
Caitlyn Jenner, who gave her first TV interview since announcing she was running for governor to FOX's Sean Hannity on Wednesday, pictured in 2020. (Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images)

Reality TV celebrity Caitlyn Jenner gave her first television interview Wednesday night since her entry into the California governor’s race two weeks ago caused a media frenzy. And if her debut sit-down is any indication, the 71-year-old former Olympic athlete has a lot of distance to make up if she has any hope of winning the gold in the recall election.

The interview was recorded in Malibu, where Jenner lives, with Fox TV host Sean Hannity's show, a friendly platform for conservative Republicans like Jenner – who supported President Donald Trump in 2016.

Hannity covered a wide range of topics, including the pandemic, immigration, water policy, policing and transgender youth, but Jenner offered mostly vague, meandering answers that belied a lack of knowledge about the major issues facing California.

"I am an outsider," Jenner said. "I understand that. Now I'm in a race for solutions. I need to find solutions to be able to turn this state around. I absolutely love this state. I'm a fighter. Always have been."

At the top of the show, before Jenner joined, Hannity portrayed California's struggle with the pandemic in the worst possible light, comparing COVID-19 statistics with Florida without offering any context. There was no mention that California now has the lowest case rate in the nation and that the economy is quickly reopening.


When Hannity asked Jenner about Newsom's handling of the pandemic, she said he "has been absolutely horrible."

"He's destroyed businesses. Thousands of businesses were destroyed, restaurants destroyed, not being able to open up. He should have done a better job," she said, without offering any specifics.

Asked about agriculture and water, she said, "Water is a big issue," before pivoting to the Sierra snowpack being low and veering toward high-speed rail.

Immigration? "I'm pro-illegal immigration," Jenner mistakenly said. When Hannity gently suggested she meant to say "legal immigration," she said, "Oh, did I leave out the legal part?" and thanked him for "watching my back."

Jenner said she disagreed with Trump on some things, like transgender rights. But she reiterated her support for Trump’s border wall.

"I am for securing this state, I am pro-law enforcement. I am pro-border protection. Pro-ICE," she said. "We need these people, and they do a wonderful job."

Hannity pushed Jenner on hot-button issues like sanctuary state policies and public benefits for undocumented immigrants. She refused to take the bait, offering up a "kinder, gentler" version of a conservative.

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"We are a compassionate country, OK? We are a compassionate state. Some help, I mean, some people there we're going to send back, OK, no question about that. But I have met some of the greatest immigrants into our country," she said before launching into the story of an undocumented man she had known for 17 years.

"This is a gentleman I mean, this is the greatest guy. I want him to be a U.S. citizen, OK? He's an asset to this state, to this country, but he's been trying for 17 years to get citizenship."

On a wide range of issues including water, policing and the pandemic, Jenner offered mostly anecdotes and generalities – and Hannity didn’t press for many specifics.

Asked to grade Gov. Gavin Newsom’s management of the state, she said he was too political and too beholden to special interests.

"What I see in Gavin Newsom is a politician who makes his decision as a politician and special interests. And the hypocrisy that is going on right now. It's like this one set of rules for Sacramento, and there's another set of rules for everybody else."

Jenner portrayed herself as someone who would bring a practical view to governing. "I have common sense, OK? I see what’s going on, and I see no common sense in politics and why they're doing it besides only for political reasons," she offered.

Jenner described herself as a “compassionate disrupter," someone who will challenge the status quo. But whether the owner of a Malibu home and a private airplane can appeal to the average voter remains an open question, and Jenner's comments recorded at her airplane hanger Wednesday night didn't help.

"My friends are leaving California," she said. "The guy across from me was packing up his hangar. I said, 'Where are you going?' And he says, 'I'm moving to Sedona, Arizona. I can't take it anymore. I can't walk down the streets and see the homeless.' "

That comment blew up on Twitter.

But Jenner had her moments of humanity. Asked about an earlier statement that she couldn’t have run for governor before transitioning to a woman, Jenner gave a heartfelt answer.

"I’m just trying to be myself, and I couldn't do it before, I had too many secrets. I have no secrets anymore. And I just wake up and be myself all day, but I still feel like I'm doing the right thing. And that’s the most important thing," she said.

Despite Jenner’s high-profile name, the governor's race may be the highest hurdle yet for the former Olympic gold medal winner.

As the interview concluded, Jenner told Hannity, "Now we're going to go find my plane around the corner. I'm going to take you for a flight."

Jenner is not the only candidate hoping to catch voter interest in the days after the recall officially met the threshold to appear on the ballot.

Republican John Cox, who lost to Newsom in the 2018 governor's race, re-launched his candidacy with the moniker of "The Beast" while appearing alongside a live bear in Sacramento on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Cox swung through the Bay Area, making stops (without the bear) in San Francisco and Fremont, where he stopped outside the factory of electric carmaker, Tesla.

After a waterfront press conference on Treasure Island, the San Diego businessman told KQED that he "didn't have as much time to get the message out" in the months leading up to his 24-point loss to Newsom.

"Millions of people voted for me, and I have to move up from there to get people to know me better," he said. "And that's what 'The Beast' is all about, reaching a lot of people who aren't political junkies."

Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and former Congressman Doug Ose are among the other Republicans who have launched campaigns in the recall election.