MSNBC Host Chris Hayes is the Hyper-Literate Left-Leaning Softie Dad Every Kid Deserves

How does the MSNBC host balance telling truth to power with feeding broccoli to his kids? The trick is a grain of salt.

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Because we live in the era of the talking head, it’s easy to forget that those talking heads also have walking bodies and that those bodies have homes and families to which they return. Chris Hayes, the droll, owlish host of MSNBC’s Emmy-winning All In with Chris Hayes, which airs at 8 p.m. EST on weeknights, hasn’t shied away from entering the political fray. (It would be hard not to when your show is called All In). Whether it’s debunking myths about DACA or tracking down leftover funds from Trump’s huge inauguration, Hayes speaks truth to power from his perch beneath MSNBC studio lights. He’s both a journalist — he still serves as editor-at-large of The Nation — and an author. His latest book, A Colony in a Nation, came out in March. Currently, he is preparing to co-host the Global Citizen Festival, a massive do-goodery concert which airs on September 23rd on MSNBC.

For the last five years, he’s also been a father. Hayes has a hard time pinpointing how, exactly, becoming a father has changed him as a journalist, but he’s sure it has. “It’s so transformational to who you are as a human,” he explains. “It’s difficult to identify specific and distinct ways.” However, he allows that any story — and there are, sadly, many — involving a child in danger destroys him now.

Predictably, Chris Hayes took the Fatherly Questionnaire during work hours.

Twitter / @chrislhayes

What is your name?

Chris Hayes





How old is your child/children?

3 and 5.

What are their names?

Ryan is the eldest. David is three.

Twitter / @chrislhayes

Are they named after anyone in particular?

They both have middle names that have family significance. Elizabeth is Ryan’s middle name. It was my grandmother’s middle name and my sister in law’s as well. My son’s middle name, Emmanuel, is the name of my mom’s dad.

Do you have any cute nicknames for your child?

Ryan we call Ry or RiRi. David, I just call Buddy a lot.

What do they call you?

Dad or Daddy.

How often do you see them?

If I’m not traveling, I see them every day. I don’t see them at night because I get home after 10 p.m. That’s one of the big drawbacks of the job. But I generally take them to school.

Describe yourself as a father in three words.

Loving. Jokey. Delighted.

Twitter / @chrislhayes

Describe your father in three words.

Loving. Wise. Kind.

What are your strengths as a father?

I have an even-keel about worrying and I’m not super helicopter-y. Also, I think I have a good way of speaking with my children. It is neither stern and strict — nor is it overwhelmingly faux-peerish.

What are your weaknesses as a father?

Impatience. Sometimes I find myself walking on a Saturday to get a bagel, they’ve stopped to walk a single-file tight walk on a metal beam, and I feel this instinct to say, ‘C’mon let’s go!’ Why, I ask myself, are you constantly rushing? The wonderful gift of having children is that their conception of being in the moment is so natural and first-order. But, for me, since my day flows toward this single point at 8 p.m., deep in my metabolism there’s an on-to-the-next, on-to-the-next mentality.

Relatedly, what is your biggest regret as a father?

Not being there for bedtime and now I’m missing homework too. The drawbacks to my schedule will only get more acute over time. My daughter, for instance, just started first grade and I have no idea what her homework is.

What is your favorite activity to do with your children, that is, your special father-kid thing?

Playing guitar and singing. They sing along or they dance. Their favorite song is “The Weight” by the Band, but I’ll noodle out a bunch of songs from Moana and The Lion King too. They alternate between being really into it and rolling their eyes.

Twitter / @chrislhayes

What has been the moment you were the most proud as a parent? Why?

They’re young enough that I am most proud of the moments in which they display intuitive and instinctual kindness. Recently, for instance, they came across a picture of a boy in the rubble in Syria. They were asking a lot of questions about him and his family and I watched as they demonstrated an intuitive capacity for kindness, empathy, and social conscience. They have an obligation as a human being and a citizen and that’s tough to embed in a 3-year-old.

What heirloom did your father give to you, if any?

We’re not a big heirloom family. One thing that my dad, who is from Chicago’s North Side, gave me is my devotion to the Chicago Cubs.

What heirloom do you want to leave for your children, if anything?

Cubs fandom.

Describe the “Dad Special” for dinner?

I’m not at home for five nights a week. But on weekends, they like the way I steam broccoli. Basically, I use a lot of butter and salt. They call it Dad Broccoli.

Twitter / @chrislhayes

Are you religious and are you raising your children in that tradition?

I am not and we’re not raising our children in a religious tradition. There is some second guessing. I know the basics of the canon of Christianity and it is little weird to me that they are being raised with no personal access to those stories.

What is a mistake you made growing up that you want to ensure your child does not repeat?

I was way, way too hard on myself about achievement and grades. I was psycho-driven competitive and would like to see them not be so insane.

Aside from saying it, how do you make sure your kid knows you love him or her?

I’m really physical with them. I hold them and cuddle them and hold their hands. I tussle their hair and tickle them and give them kisses.

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