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January 09, 2017 09:56 AM

When Fox News alum Megyn Kelly announced her departure from the network last week, emotions were flying high — especially for colleague Tucker Carlson, who will be taking over the longtime host’s 9 p.m. time slot on Monday.

“I will say with total sincerity, I was sad,” Carlson, 47, tells PEOPLE less than a week after news of Kelly’s exit. “The day I got to Fox until the day she left, Megyn Kelly was not only nice to me, but really nice. She went out of her way to be kind to me, to help me and give me good advice, and was just warm and kind from day one. I’m a Megyn fan.”

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Kelly, who will be heading over to NBC Newsgave her final goodbye during the final installment of The Kelly File on Friday, acknowledging that she has become “better for having been here.”

As Carlson, who has been a Fox News contributor since 2009, prepares to take on his new time slot with Tucker Carlson Tonight, he reflects on the elements that attracted him to Fox News in the first place and expresses excitement for his upcoming gig.

“I like the rhythm of a daily show,” he says. “You can tell stories over a longer period of time. You can introduce something on Monday and kind of bring it to a conclusion on Friday. It’s a bigger canvas. I love the editorial freedom that Fox affords. That’s just not a talking point — it’s completely real. Ask anybody who anchors a show at Fox, they do not tell you what to say. You get to make your own decision about what you think, who you book, how you present — it’s a freedom that I’ve never experienced.”

With the upcoming presidential administration approaching, Carlson, who has had his share of healthy, political debates throughout his career at CNN, MSNBC and now Fox News, says he’s approaching it the exact same way he has approached past administrations — that is, with “deep skepticism.”

“I’m more sympathetic to the ideology of some much more than others, but I never take anything at face value,” he admits. “I never believe anything a politician says before it’s proven. It’s not so different. I’ve been here for 31 years.”

Tucker Carlson Tonight premieres Monday at 9 p.m. ET on Fox News.

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