Fox News' Peter Doocy on the White House Role That Got Him Singled Out by President Biden
"I'd like to be at the White House for as long as possible, because it is really interesting every single day," Doocy says
Despite the headlines and social media posts that tend to follow Peter Doocy whenever he speaks up in the White House press briefing room — "Jen Psaki destroys Peter Doocy's gotcha question," declared one recent article while another proclaimed: "Peter Doocy Spars with Jen Psaki" — the 33-year-old journalist explains that reality is much less controversial.
"It never feels like someone is 'destroying me' or I am 'destroying' anyone else," Doocy tells PEOPLE. "It's perfectly civil."
Yes, sure, there will be sharply worded questions from Doocy or pushback from the White House. But when the briefing is over and the TV cameras are no longer rolling, "everyone is perfectly polite over email or on the phone," Doocy says with a laugh.
Doocy, son of Fox & Friends' co-host Steve Doocy, has made something of a mark on the briefing room since being named one of Fox News' White House correspondents in January.
Prior to taking that role, he covered Joe Biden's campaign for the network and his style with the future president earned him some notice, too — along with some needling (and, once, a bit of finger-wagging).
In December, Doocy asked Biden a pointed question about the federal investigation into Biden's son Hunter. Biden answered Doocy, then chided him for his focus: "God love you, man. You are a one-horse pony."
Last summer, Doocy caught Biden on a bike ride and asked about selecting his running mate — to which Biden joked he was picking Doocy.
And in January, as Biden was exiting a public appearance, Doocy yelled out one final question: "What did you talk to Vladimir Putin about?"
"You," Biden quipped. "He sends his best."
"I know he always asks me tough questions, and he always has an edge to them, but I like him anyway," Biden said of Doocy before calling on him toward the end of a press conference in January.
That moment, Doocy says, was a weight off his shoulders.
"It is kind of a relief because it's not like he is saying, 'I am now president, I don't have time to answer your questions anymore,' " says Doocy, who has been with Fox News since 2009. "It was like, 'Okay. I know this might not be something I like, but what is it today?' That gives me a lot of hope."
Doocy says that his questioning style is "usually just me and I'm going over things that the administration has said, either recently or in the past, just to try to figure out how to get them to say something new."
"But when we're with the president, the greater concern is time," he says. "You have 10 or 15 seconds to ask a question, so I know I have to get his attention."
It helps, of course, that Doocy grew up in the world of political news. He and his dad have worked together at Fox News for more than 10 years, since the younger Doocy began there right out of college.
"We talk a lot about the job," he tells PEOPLE of Steve. "He came up in news at the local NBC station in D.C., which was one of his last stops before New York. He's someone who, if I'm not sure about something, I can call him — and my mom [Kathy Gerrity], who also worked in news — and ask them about X, Y and Z. They'll give me the best advice possible. So I am very lucky."
Asked if he has a goal of emulating his father's — or any other reporter's — career, Doocy is quick to say he wants to carve his own path.
"I have no idea what the news business is going to look like in 25 years, 30 years. So I would like to be in a good position to be a big part of whatever it looks like," he says. "And I'd like to be at the White House for as long as possible, because it is really interesting every single day. A lot of historic things have happened in that building so for now, I am just focused on trying to do a good job on my beat."
Doocy says that COVID-19 has added some wrinkles to the new role. Before entering the White House each day, Doocy — who works on an opposing schedule to fellow Fox correspondent Kristin Fisher, for social distancing purposes — gets tested for the virus and receives a wristband with his results.
After going through a second round of security, he can take his seat in a booth in the White House basement, where he devises his list of questions for the day.
But once the day's briefing is over, the work — and the access to White House staff — doesn't end.
"I think the thing that people probably don't realize is the press are there all day," Doocy says. "And we can still talk to the press staff outside of the briefing room. There is a door to the left of the microphone and it's filled with members of the press staff and the president's staff that you can go and follow up with."
That means that, if the press secretary doesn't have information about something during the live briefing, Doocy and his fellow correspondents can ask her or another staffer to provide it later.
Another thing Doocy says most at-home viewers likely don't realize is just how much COVID-19 has impacted the day-to-day.
"Something I have noticed at this White House is that, because of the ongoing pandemic and the way that they observe social distancing … there is never anybody else around the president, except for staff and Secret Service and press," Doocy says.
He continues: "It's kind of like the press and staff have the president all to themselves, and that makes it entirely the press' responsibility to document what's going on … because you won't have people pulling him aside for a selfie and a story about what he said during that interaction going viral."
While Doocy has now been based for years at the Washington, D.C., bureau, he admits that it's only recently begun to feel like home.
"For the last three full years, I was on the road almost continuously," he says. "Once the midterm cycle started … I was out continuously through that. Then the 2020 presidential cycle pretty much starts [right after that]. So, while I've lived in D.C., I was not in D.C. I was in hundreds of Marriotts."
So does he use his time off to explore the city? Not exactly.
"I'm kind of in the routine where I wait until I'm home and I stop moving for a couple of hours to do something," he says. "On a Saturday or Sunday, I do all the laundry and work out, and do all the dishes and prepare for the week ... But it's tough not to look at my email on a day off."