Most people would be happy to reach the pinnacle of their career just one time, but Kevin Corke has climbed that ladder twice.
Millions of sports enthusiasts have known him as the voice of ESPN’s SportsCenter. Now he’s famous with a different audience in his position as White House correspondent for Fox News, the most-watched cable news channel for more than 15 consecutive years.
Corke has interviewed three presidents, visited 41 countries, and flown on Air Force One more than 60 times while covering presidential politics, but that is not what he wants to be remembered for.
At the end of his life — when the cameras have been turned off — what Corke wants people to say about him is this: “He was a kind man who loved people.”
Corke is committed to living a faithful and honorable life. “There’s a Latin phrase — Fiat Justitia ruat caelum,” Corke said when I interviewed him by phone in February.
He paused, collecting his thoughts. “What it means in sort of layman’s terms is, ‘Though the heavens may fall, let the chips fall where they may.’ What I mean by that is, you know, do right. Do the honorable thing. Let justice reign though the heavens fall.”
That is how he wants to live his life.
“I am going to be honorable, even if it costs me everything,” Corke said. “That is the way I want to live. That is the way I hope I live. That is the way that I will always strive to live.”
And what does Corke believe is right?
“To stand in the gap and bridge the gap between my brothers and sisters here and my father, God.”
A DAY IN HIS LIFE: WALKING IN KEVIN CORKE’S SHOES
It is 4:44 a.m., and Kevin Corke’s alarm is already going off. Why 4:44 a.m. as opposed to 4:30 or 4:45? That was my follow-up question after Corke told me how his typical workday begins.
Is it because four is his lucky number? Does getting a 16-minute head start on the people who wake up at 5 a.m. lead to success? No. It’s actually quirkier than that.
“One day my alarm clock was actually at 4:44 when I turned it on to set it, and I just thought, ‘Wow. How convenient.’ And I left it,” he laughed.
By 5:30 a.m., Corke is out the door of his Washington, D.C., home and on the bus. Before the sun is even up, he is inside the White House gates, showing his badge to the Secret Service. The men and women who guard that house on Pennsylvania Avenue know Corke pretty well by now.
All business, Corke immediately scurries downstairs to the Fox News booth.
“A typical day with me starts wicked early and it ends fairly late,” Corke said.
When he isn’t traveling with the president, Corke begins his workday shuffling through emails his staff sent overnight — what those in the journalism industry call “readouts.”
Corke gets a readout on just about everything — from political stories like the controversial wall along the Mexico border to international issues such as proposed talks with North Korea. He scans through headlines from around the globe, digesting news as quickly as possible, throwing in weather, sports, and entertainment just so there is no topic he is unfamiliar with.
But for Corke, the politics readout is paramount. It doesn’t just cover the usual outlets — The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Chicago Tribune — but also pulls from less traditional sources such as blogs, political newsletters, and other content beyond the mainstream media.
“It really gives you a full scope of what is happening in politics and how it relates to the Trump White House,” he explains.
After 15 minutes of scouring headlines, Corke begins reaching out to President Trump’s communications team. Well-connected sources are on speed dial — trusted people who can break down the domestic events that have developed overnight. Other sources give him an overview of the security and international stories that are unfolding.
“The reason I do those beat calls every day is because I want to make sure that I am not only up to date on what’s happening now, not just what the paper said, but also to do my own reporting,” Corke said.
By 7 a.m. Corke is preparing for his first live shot of the day — that is, unless something unexpected comes up. A White House correspondent always has to stay on his toes, and so for Corke, flexibility is part of the job.
“I write live reports, which can include graphics and sometimes includes videos and voice-overs or sound on tape — different sounds the producer and I have collected the night before or even that morning,” Corke said.
“And that’s what I do. Every. Single. Day.”
When he isn’t traveling with the president, Corke walks or takes the bus to arrive home by late afternoon.
He faces the next, and perhaps hardest, challenge of the day: making dinner.
You might think that someone as professionally accomplished as Corke is also a gourmet chef, but he’s the first to let you know that’s not the case.
“I know that sounds silly, but I don’t know how to cook. I have made it this far in life eating out virtually every day whether it’s breakfast or lunch or dinner,” he said.
However, Corke’s plan is for that to change.
“I’ve been checking out lots of cooking channels, how to make food when you are a bachelor. That’s my new thing,” he said. Corke hopes that, in the future, he’ll be able to put his ever-expanding cooking skills to use for a wife and kids.
After dinner, it is time to decompress. “Like most people, I love to just watch YouTube or surf the web or I’ll watch a game,” he said, noting that he is an avid Denver Broncos fan.
“Covering the White House is hard,” Corke said, explaining how it’s important sometimes to step away from work. “It’s non-stop breaking news. A lot of it is unrest and upset. Right now, Washington is in constant upheaval and turmoil, so I think it makes it difficult to work,” Corke said.
“That’s fine. I’m a big boy. I can handle it. But it also means that when I need to take a break, I need it.”
Corke takes those three or four hours when he finally gets home to unplug. “I turn off my phone — well, not off. But, I set it down,” he said, admitting, “I won’t look at it until I am ready for bed.”
By 9:30 p.m. Corke is looking for a pillow, and by 10 p.m. he is usually fast asleep. After all, Corke needs to be prepared to do it all again at 4:44 a.m.
A WITNESS TO THE FIRST DRAFT OF HISTORY
Traveling with the U.S. president and interviewing world leaders are part of the job description of a White House correspondent. But the way Corke sees it, he is just a “well-paid teacher.”
“We are witnesses to the first draft of history every day,” he said, explaining that it’s his responsibility “to share with my viewers, give them context and understanding of what is happening, and a fair accounting of what is to come as best as my experience will enable me to predict.”
He could not imagine doing anything else. “It’s really my chance to shape the way people see their world — whether you are in Des Moines, or Denver, or Dayton — and I really take great pride in that.”
But it’s not what a young Kevin Corke could have predicted for himself. He would not have imagined one day graduating from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and then winning national and local Emmys for his reporting.
For a while, he wanted to be an astronaut. “I loved space as a kid,” Corke said.
Eventually, he considered being an architect. Corke fondly remembers his classmates looking over his shoulder and saying, “Wow. You are making some really cool drawings.”
Being a reporter? The thought never even crossed his mind. That is, until Carolyn Plummer — his high school English teacher — changed everything for him.
“I think it was on a Friday,” Corke remembered. Mrs. Plumber had assigned an essay and was making her way through the room, passing the marked-up papers back to her students.
She approached Corke and said: “That was the finest essay I have read from a student, and I have been doing this for 30 years. If you do not go into writing or journalism, I think it would be a great waste.”
His path forever changed. “That’s all it took. That one comment, off the cuff. I had never thought about it until she said that.”
And so his shoes started in a different direction — all because of the encouragement of a teacher.
LESSONS FROM BARBARA
Perhaps Corke’s most influential teacher was his mom, Barbara, who was affectionately called “Barbie.” She passed away in 2016 of pancreatic cancer.
“She was my best friend,” Corke said. Her words are still always on his mind.
“She was a big believer that cowardice is the No. 1 enemy for young men,” Corke said. But that used to baffle him. Corke would often push back, arguing, “I thought young men are brave, mom. I don’t know where you are going with this.”
But she set the record straight.
“Sure, they can be brave,” his mom used to tell him. “But too often they are cowardly. They are afraid to do the right thing. They are too willing to stand back and let other people suffer. Do you know it only takes good people to be silent for evil to reign?”
Finally, what his mom said made sense.
“I refuse to be a coward. I will call it like I see it, and I will let the chips fall where they may,” Corke said.
“I’ll never apologize for being authentic. Now I’ve learned to be more careful, but I will never apologize for being authentic because at the end of the day, I’m the one who has to look at me in the mirror.”
Although Corke’s life is non-stop activity, he still constantly feels his mother’s absence.
“There are so many days that I wish I could talk to her. There are so many things that I wish I could ask her.”
What he misses the most is intellectually sparring with her. “I love that stuff,” he said.
“She had such great energy and did so much as the family matriarch. But I think more than anything, she taught me two really important lessons.”
He still clings to them.
LESSON 1 — “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid of failure. Don’t be afraid to put your feelings out there. Don’t be afraid to do what it takes to stand in the gap, to defend the defenseless, and to be counted. Because if you do that, you can always look at yourself in the mirror and say: ‘I did the right thing.’ Others may not, but I will.”
LESSON 2 — “The other thing that she taught me was don’t live your life in fear for what might happen. I think a lot of people get very comfortable, and they are afraid to risk anything, you know — whether it’s going for a big job out of town or a big promotion. You cannot live your life afraid of rejection, afraid of you know, the ‘what ifs.’”
In addition to his mother’s advice, Corke’s close relationship with Jesus Christ informs his thoughts and actions.
“If I hang on to the one talent God gave me and I bury it, that does not make me a good and faithful servant,” Corke said.
If God gives him four talents, Corke said that his desire is to turn them into eight.
“I look at my life and say, ‘I will never bury opportunities to do cool things, to see cool things, to make people feel good, to take a chance, to live, to love, and to lose.’ Enjoy life. I try to do that,” Corke said.
It has not always worked out perfectly. Corke was laid off from his NBC reporting job in 2009 after the economic downturn.
“NBC laid off a bunch of people on-air. That was really hard for me,” he said. “I went a whole year without work. I burned through my savings. I was not renewed in 2013 from my station in Miami, so I went back into sports after that.”
Although he has reached the top of both sports and political reporting, there have also been down times.
“It has not been a smooth ride,” Corke admitted. “Sometimes the water gets choppy. But the difference is, do you let go of the wheel or do you lean in? I lean in.”
By the end of my interview with Kevin Corke, it seems clear to me that, regardless of whether life hands him successes or challenges, Corke’s shoes are going to take the honorable and authentic road.
Sure, Corke has been successful. His shoes have stood in the Oval Office, the State Room, and the famous press briefing room. But a walk in his shoes can be just like a walk in many others’. He’s still working on mastering the simple stuff — like learning how to cook — showing us all that we have a lot to give but also more to learn.