Pete Hegseth is a Fox News contributor and army veteran. He joined the conservative network in 2014 and currently is a co-host of Fox & Friends Weekend.
Hegseth, who reportedly has a friendly relationship with President Trump, interviewed the commander-in-chief before a rally in Montana on September 6, 2018. The president discussed the anonymous op-ed published by the New York Times, reportedly written by a senior official in the Trump administration. In the interview, Trump said his team works like a “well-oiled machine,” that the op-ed was “virtually treason” and accused the author of being a member of the so-called “deep state.”
Hegseth has recently come under scrutiny for a $10,000 payment he allegedly received from the Republican party in Michigan. According to Media Matters, Hegseth was paid to speak at a fundraiser for Senate candidate John James, who ultimately lost to incumbent Debbie Stabenow. Hegseth then promoted James on his show. Fox News has said the network “does not condone any talent participating in campaign events.”
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Pete Hegseth Was Considered Twice to Lead Veterans Affairs by the Trump Administration
Pete Hegseth has a friendly relationship with President Donald Trump. The president has reportedly called Hegseth frequently to ask for his opinions on policies concerning veterans, and even had him over for dinner at the White House. Hegseth has been a staunch supporter of increased privatization of health care for veterans and shrinking the government’s role in care.
The veteran was considered for the job of Secretary of Veterans Affairs as the new administration built its Cabinet after the 2016 election. Hegseth was vetted but eventually passed over, in part due to lack of experience managing such a massive organization, as reported by the Washington Post. Veterans Affairs employs approximately 360,000 people.
The Trump administration reconsidered Hegseth for the role again in 2018 after the firing of then-secretary David Shulkin. But Trump ultimately gave the job to Robert Wilkie. Hegseth said on Fox & Friends he was “proud to be under consideration. Grateful any time you be thought of to serve.”
2. Hegseth Served in the Army National Guard in Iraq, Afghanistan & Cuba
Pete Hegseth is a veteran of the Army National Guard. According to his LinkedIn page, he served as an Infantry Platoon Leader at Guantanamo Bay in 2004 and 2005. Hegseth has been an advocate for expanding military operations at the Cuba site. He told Fox News in August of 2016, “If we’re at war, we have an enemy. We should be getting intelligence from them, extracting it, and then hey if they’re guilty, they’re either executed or detained indefinitely.” In Cuba, Hegseth was awarded the Army Commendation Medal.
In 2005, Hegseth was deployed to Iraq, where he served for one year in the 101st Airborne Division. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, and a second Army Commendation Medal for his service.
During his recent tour in Afghanistan, Pete was awarded a second Bronze Star Medal and a Joint Commendation Medal for his actions as the officer in charge on the scene of the deadliest suicide attack in Kabul since the war began.
Hegseth’s final tour of duty was in Afghanistan from June 2011 until March of 2012 as part of the Minnesota Army National Guard. He served as a senior instructor at the Counterinsurgency Training Center in Kabul. He added to his list of commendations for his time there, earning a second Bronze Star Medal and a Joint Commendation Medal.
While Hegseth is a skilled and highly decorated soldier, his training did NOT include axe throwing. In 2015, he missed the target while throwing an axe during a segment for Fox & Friends. He accidentally struck Jeff Prosperie. The victim reportedly declined Fox News’ offer to pay for medical treatment, but instead filed a lawsuit against Hegseth and the network in 2018. Fox News called the lawsuit “surprising,” stating that they had not heard from Prosperie since the incident occurred.
3. Hegseth Has Been the Leader of Two Veteran Groups
Pete Hegseth was the executive director of the advocacy group Vets for Freedom from 2007 until 2012. The political action committee was founded in 2006 by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. It promoted staying in Iraq until the United States achieved total victory. Vets for Freedom describes itself as being nonpartisan and supports “policymakers from both sides of the aisle who have stood behind our great generation of American warriors on the battlefield, and who have put long-term national security before short-term partisan political gain.” But according to a profile by NPR, the group has more typically been associated with Republican candidates.
Hegseth moved on from Vets for Freedom to become CEO of Concerned Veterans for America, a role he held for more than three and a half years. The Military Times reported in 2016 that Hegseth was instrumental in increasing the group’s influence among congressional Republicans, despite the organization’s stated goal of building bipartisan support for reform at Veterans Affairs.
Concerned Veterans for America is also reportedly connected to the Koch brothers and other conservative activist organizations. When Hegseth stepped down as CEO, he dismissed rumors that there were disagreements between himself and the group’s financial supporters. Hegseth is an advocate of increased privatization of health care for veterans, an idea that is not always popular among other Republicans.
Outside of journalism, Hegseth’s other experience included working with money. He worked as an equity capital markets analyst at Bear Stearns for a total of seven months, between 2004 and 2006. He had to leave twice to go overseas for deployments.
4. Pete Hegseth is a Published Author
In 2016, Pete Hegseth’s book In the Arena: Good Citizens, a Great Republic, and How One Speech Can Reinvigorate America was published by Simon & Schuster. Hegseth channels President Teddy Roosevelt’s ideology about how Americans need to be active participants in order to make democracy work and to maintain a presence worldwide.
In the book, Hegseth appears to challenge the idea of “politics as usual” and “elite progressivism.” The summary on Amazon describes the book as such: “Hegseth resurrects Roosevelt’s famous “Citizenship in a Republic” address—best known for the “Man in the Arena” quote—as a roadmap for addressing the massive challenges facing America today. In order to rejuvenate what makes America exceptional, we must unapologetically get back into Roosevelt’s arena—as engaged “good citizens” at home and powerful “good patriots” in the world.”
This book was not Hegseth’s first entry into the world of politics. He ran for the Minnesota Senate in 2012, but lost with 16 percent of the vote. He also reportedly considered running again for the Minnesota House in 2014, and considered a run for governor in 2018. But he chose not to run in either election.
5. Hegseth Has Been Married Twice and Has Four Children
Pete Hegseth lists his permanent home as the Minneapolis-St. Paul area of Minnesota on his LinkedIn page. He has four children: Gunner, Boone, Rex and Gwen.
Hegseth and second wife Samantha were reportedly introduced through mutual friends and got married in June of 2010 in Washington, D.C. They share three sons. But the couple is in the process of divorcing.
Hegseth frequently shares photos on Instagram alongside girlfriend Jennifer Rauchet, a Fox News executive producer, such as the photo above. Their daughter Gwen was born in August of 2017.
Hegseth’s first marriage was in 2004, to Meredith Schwarz. They tied the knot during the summer after he graduated from Princeton University (with a bachelor’s degree in politics). The marriage lasted until 2009.