Interview: Kennedy: the TV host and one-name celeb talks about cherry vodka, teenage rebellion, Frank Zappa, free-range parenting, and life as Fox's token libertarian.

Author:Mangu-Ward, Katherine
Position:Lisa Kennedy Montgomery - Interview
 
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WHEN KURT LODER and Perm Jillette tell you you're a libertarian, you might be a libertarian.

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Once upon a time, Kennedy was one of America's most famous Republicans. At the tender age of 20, Lisa Kennedy Montgomery became a breakout personality at MTV, combining coverage of alternative music with political news starting in 1992. Frizzy-haired, bespectacled, and Doc Martens-clad, Kennedy quickly came out as a Republican, bringing ideological diversity to cable long before Fox News was a twinkle in founder Roger Ailes' eye.

She rubbed shoulders with plenty of musicians and politicians at MTV, as well as in her later gigs as a radio personality and a game show host. She also picked up a degree in philosophy from the University of California, Los Angeles, in those years, along with professional snowboarding husband Dave Lee and a couple of kids.

These days, Kennedy calls herself a libertarian, thanks in part to prompting from some famous friends, and she's still an odd duck. At a network famous for smiling glossy blondes, Kennedy brings a sharp brunette sensibility to Fox's talent pool. She first appeared on The Independents, the show she co-hosted with FreeThink's Kmele Foster and Reason's Matt Welch. It was cancelled in 2015, but quickly replaced with Kennedy, an eponymous solo show that hearkens more explicitly back to her V.J. days. It airs at 8 p.m. most weeknights on Fox Business, and approaches the news of the day with a wink and nudge, smuggling serious monologues about government spending, regulatory overreach, and political malfeasance in between segments driven by cat videos and memes.

After a taping of the show in June, Reason's Katherine Mangu-Ward chatted with Kennedy in her office, a small space crammed with serious books, absurd shoes, and brightly colored dresses high in the towers of News Corp.'s headquarters in Manhattan.

Reason: How did you become a libertarian?

Kennedy: I think I was born that way. Or at least born into a set of circumstances and family members that naturally steered me toward a path of individualism and limited government. The news was always on very loud in my house and you could only get news a couple hours of the day. Because of that, when we ate dinner, my dad would insist that the evening news be turned up at full volume and then he would shush us if we started talking during something very important. So I tried to listen to the terms which he found most interesting. They didn't make sense to me for a long, long time.

What were your parents' political leanings?

Both my parents were Democrats. My dad was definitely more of a fiscally conservative traditional Democrat. My mom was more of a feminist Camelot Democrat. They definitely had an idealistic view of life as it should be in the United States. And they had a sense that government had to have some hand in making people's lives better. So for me libertarianism was the ultimate form of rebellion.

We both come from good Democratic families with Romanian roots. Do you think the Romanian experience of being dominated by assorted autocratic regimes over its entire history has something to do with your parents' politics or yours?

I definitely think my ancestry has something to do with my politics. And I think being deeply suspicious of government and communists is implicit in a lot of first-generation immigrants, particularly from Eastern Europe. My mom came over from Romania when she was a kid and they fled the commies who took their family hemp farm.

I'm sorry--a hemp farm?!

Yeah, and my grandmother always hated the female plant. She told me that she would never smoke it. And I tried to get her to enjoy some medical marijuana when she was in her later years and she had a few...

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