How Bryan Llenas Is Bringing a New Voice to Fox News
Dominican American journalist Bryan Llenas, a national correspondent at Fox News, talks to People CHICA about what he's learned covering 2020's many historic events.
We're barely into the second half of 2020, but it seems like there's already been enough news to last several years. Between the coronavirus pandemic, worldwide Black Lives Matter protests, and continuing drama of the Trump administration, it's a lot for anyone to keep up with. Bryan Llenas, a national correspondent for Fox News, has been there through it all.
"The pandemic was the first time I was truly scared covering something," the journalist tells People CHICA. "It was a story that really impacted all of us. No one was immune. It was a risk walking outside of my door every single day to report on this." His own family was touched by the far-reaching effects of the coronavirus as he reported from New York City while it was the U.S. epicenter. His 85-year-old grandmother was infected and recovered "after a hellish three weeks," but his great aunt died from COVID-19 in New Jersey. "It was very tough," he says.
Coming up as a gay Latino man in a predominantly white field has taught Llenas how to stay resilient in the face of many obstacles. After graduating from the University of Miami in 2010, he started working as an intern, then moved on to Fox Latino, an English-language website catering to the Hispanic community. One of his first opportunities to shine on camera came during the 2013 inauguration of the new pope, who happened to be Latino. "I was just stunned," he says. "That's how I got my big break. I owe a lot to Pope Francis!"
It may seem unusual that a gay Dominican American is thriving at a network known for ultra-conservative commentators, but Llenas, who was born in NYC's Washington Heights, asserts that the culture there is not as toxic as it often seems. "I've been here for 10 years, and I think that says a lot about how I'm treated by my colleagues," says Llenas, who came out to his coworkers in 2016. "When I first came out at Fox, I was met with warmth and embraced by all my colleagues. I shared an office with Jesse Watters — and a lot of people can't find a bigger dichotomy than Jesse Watters and me on paper — but he was one of the first people to fully embrace and support me."
Llenas also notes that he's able to tell the stories he wants to tell, without pushback from higher-ups. "I have never been told what to say or how to say it," he says. "My story will tell you that this is a company that has elevated my voice. Every newsroom in America can do a better job on the diversity front, and at Fox we've had a lot of internal conversations about how we can be better on that front, but from my perspective, this is a company that saw talent in me and gave me an opportunity."
In 2015, Llenas came out to his parents and his sister, who embraced his news with unconditional love. But as a public figure, he's no stranger to criticism and discrimination. "Just like anybody else, I've had some pretty heinous tweets thrown my way," he says. "Not so much racist. I've had some homophobic tweets or hate tweets just for doing my job."
Still, he has no regrets about coming out. "If I didn't come out, I don't think I would have ever found Kyle," he says about his fiancé, Kyle Reinneck. "It's a choice to decide to come out or not in this line of work. I felt that if my goal is to be authentic and to be as real as possible, I can't hide who I am in front of millions of people every single day and somehow be able to seek the truth and be a truth-teller. You need to be exactly who you are."
Llenas met Reinneck through a mutual friend three years ago, and proposed at the top of Machu Picchu after a romantic hike in 2019. "We love adventures and traveling," he says. "It was a beautiful moment. We cried and hugged."
Reinneck stayed at his family's home in Illinois while Llenas was covering the pandemic in NYC, to avoid potential exposure to the virus. "He was watching me on TV with the rest of the family," Llenas says. The journalist also covered the massive protests against racial injustice and police brutality following the death of George Floyd. "Black Lives Matter comes down to one central point: equality," he explains. "This is about hundreds of years of Black people in America feeling they are not treated the same as their white counterparts. Black and brown communities say they have daily reminders that they are treated differently. We are seeing this collective consciousness of enough is enough."
On Sunday, Llenas will be part of a Fox special on race relations titled Harris Faulkner Presents: The Fight for America. "My goal is to try to bring voices to the table from the BLM movement on the streets at these protests, and try to synthesize what are the end goals," he says. "What's the finish line for this movement, what do people want? My goal is that viewers come away from this special with a clearer understanding of who these protesters are. In order for us to move forward as a country, we have to better understand the pain that many people are going through and the reasons why they are out in the streets."
"Let's talk for an hour with Black and brown communities and white communities about: 'Where do we go from here?'" Llenas continues. "These communities are looking to be treated the same, not only on the economic front but by police. George Floyd's death was horrific and it started the spark that ignited what we are seeing right now. This feels like there will be a new normal, and from here on out, the reactions that this country will have towards police shootings, police brutality, and racism will forever be different."
Harris Faulkner Presents: The Fight for America airs Sunday, July 19 at 10 p.m. ET on Fox News.