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Quarantine Routine is a regular feature that asks power brokers how their daily lives have changed – and how they're still doing their jobs – during the coronavirus crisis.
Rieckhoff described how his daily routine has changed during the coronavirus pandemic, and how he’s staying positive in a Q&A with Fox News:
Army veteran Paul Rieckhoff is the host of Angry Americans and founder and president of Righteous Media. (Paul Rieckhoff)
Fox News: How has your daily routine changed since social distancing measures began?
Paul Rieckhoff: Almost everything changed early and tremendously for us for two big reasons: 1) I live with my family in NYC. 2) I have two young boys (ages 4 and 1). So the days are definitely longer than before. And I haven’t cleaned this much since I was a private in Army basic training!
Our home is in Lower Manhattan, just blocks away from where I once served as a National Guardsman on and after 9/11. And now, once again in 2020, our city is being hit especially hard. New York City was shutdown early and extensively. So locking two little kids down in the epicenter of the virus required some serious diligence (and teamwork with my amazing wife!). We saw signs of the virus early, and were especially focused since we have a baby. So early on, we locked down, sanitized regularly, and we were wearing masks. So much of NYC is social — so it’s a radical change to not ride subways, enjoy a packed restaurant, go to Yankee Stadium or see live music. And I also normally travel around the country a ton — so no more Waffle House is a change and a bummer!
Running a media company in the pandemic is all about being dynamic. Part of my job is to interview front-line leaders fighting the virus. And one of the first guests on my podcast after the pandemic hit was my friend and emergency room surgeon, Dr. Paul Haser, who advised me on best practices. We also live in the same apartment building, so I deferred to the experts like him that were deep in the fight early on. I believe we are a world at war against the virus. And like any war, there are front lines and rear areas. Folks in different parts of the country and world are experiencing this time very differently. I happened to live on the front line in NYC and responded with a commensurate level of preparedness and discipline.
But in comparison to what our front-line heroes are facing, most of us have it easy. I always remind my boys that there are some folks who have it much harder than we do. Our nurses, doctors, police officers, firefighters, military folks–they are all giving up so much for the rest of us. And their families are too. We all have an obligation to serve and support them in any way we can.
Fox News: What are the biggest challenges in doing your job during this crisis?
Rieckhoff: Young kids, young kids, young kids! Both my amazing little guys require constant care and support. And with school closed, and no help from family, they need more time than ever before. My wife and I are also both entrepreneurs — so with two startups and two little ones, we often tell friends we have “4 under 4.” All four need constant attention, focus, feeding and changing! It’s also a complicated time for our kids, so we’re constantly working to keep them healthy mentally–that involves everything from regular exercise (my military experience helps!) to saluting the hero first-responders as a family outside our windows at 7 p.m. every night. My son and I have also done our best to volunteer to help older folks in our building and do simple things like FaceTiming someone close to us who lives alone each day. It’s important to us that our boys feel empowered in this difficult moment–and that they take a lesson from Mr. Rogers–and look for the helpers. But my older boy is also learning to understand that he can BE a helper. As Americans, this is the call of our time. And even though he’s in pre-school, I'm helping him find ways to serve our community and our country.
I also run a media company and appear in media pretty often. So I’ve gone from interviewing guests weekly in-person at big venues, to going totally virtual and interviewing people from a closet. And I do live shows often. The month before the pandemic really hit was our busiest yet. We hosted live events in New York with Mayor Pete Buttigieg while he was still in the race for president, Ambassador Susan Rice and Meghan McCain. And our last big live audience show was with Henry Rollins on Valentine’s Day in Los Angeles. Little did we know that would be a bit of a last hurrah for a while. But at least we went out with a bang.
But just like I learned in the army, at Righteous, we adapt, improvise and overcome. It’s an advantage of being a veteran-owned business. We can handle chaos. We’re not afraid of change. We can handle a dynamic environment. We’re built for moments like this. As the thirst for truly independent media grows, our audience is expanding by the day. We have a slate of new shows coming, and we’re one of the rare companies that’s growing right now.
Like many other media companies who provide intimate experiences for their audience, we’ve pivoted Righteous to now focus on virtual events. We’re doing interviews on Instagram and working hard to bring people together from all backgrounds as Americans. And we’ve really drilled down to focus on the issues and voices of the veterans and military community. We’ve been holding the Department of Veterans Affairs accountable, and covering stories like the coronavirus outbreaks in the Navy. We’ve also focused the show on interviews with leaders on the frontlines of the war against the virus. We’ve launched a new series of shows featuring leaders who can guide people through this new normal. Bringing expertise–and inspiration: Navy SEAL and leadership-in-chaos expert, Chris Fussell. US Army Col. Myles B. Caggins III, currently forward-deployed in Baghdad, Iraq and Director of Public Affairs and Spokesperson for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve described what life is like for our troops under threat of Iranian missile attacks and COVID-19. Medal of Honor Recipient Flo Groberg shared how to thrive in the face of hardship and isolation. Brooklyn Emergency Room Doctor Paul Hazer gave us a look inside one of the hardest-hit hospitals in the world. Marine Corps vet Jake Wood from Team Rubicon shared how veterans are leading disaster relief for COVID-19. Jeffrey Wright, star of Westworld, is helping small businesses and first responders BrooklynForLife. We talked to NBA expert David Aldrdige about the future of sports after the virus. And education expert Anya Kamenetz about how schools are impacted by the pandemic–and shared tips for parents on screen time and home-schooling.
And every show, I highlight the helpers. From teachers to musicians to my 102-year-old Aunt Angie. It’s a regular segment and one of our most popular. We also have an action segment in every show–encouraging people to not just be angry, but to be active. To turn their understandable frustration into positive impact. We’ve mobilized support for critical non-profits like Meals on Wheels, Team Rubicon and The Ray Pfeifer foundation for 9/11 First-Responders.
Overall, I want to be a source of the 4 I’s that are the foundation of our company: integrity, information, inspiration and impact. My audience spans all political sides, and demographics from grandparents to teenagers, but I always recognize that a large part of my audience is made up of veterans, active duty, military family and first-responders. I want to bring light to contrast all the heat that other outlets are stirring up–especially right now. Above all else, we’re all Americans. And we’re stronger together.
Fox News: What surprised you most about how life has changed?
Rieckhoff: How time has moved. It’s a bit like being in combat. The days are long, but the weeks fly by. It’s hard to believe how quickly the last few months have passed and especially with small kids — how grueling some of the days can be. But it’s also a unique time of connection–when people around the world are sharing the same types of challenges.
I’ve also been very surprised that most Americans don’t realize how hard veterans have been hit by the pandemic. Veterans are at unique risk for COVID-19 and many veterans homes have been devastated. We’ve lost thousands — maybe tens of thousands — of World War Two veterans: 88 veterans have died at one facility in Holyoke, Massachusetts alone. These heroes will never have proper military funerals. And their families have been devastated. These are members of our Greatest Generation that survived Nazi snipers and Japanese kamikazes, but were lost to a virus. A virus that they could have been protected from. More Americans should be outraged about that. And I hope after reading this, more Americans will be activated. We say all the time on my show: if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention. The loss of these heroes should be something that makes all Americans angry. And drives all Americans to action.
Fox News: How do you blow off steam?
Rieckhoff: Exercise! With the repetition, isolation and collective stress, it feels a bit like being back on deployment in the army. Thankfully, I’m used to exercising in tough places. I’ve been able to get out and take a run — and running in the empty streets of NYC is a silver lining. Sometimes, especially at night, I feel like Will Smith in "I Am Legend." I’ve also got a good regiment of push-ups, squats and stretching that I can do anywhere. Lifting two growing boys is also some damn good exercise. And I love my TV. I’ve been really digging The Last Dance and Westworld. I thought the NFL Draft was an excellent escape. And I always make time for some good whiskey and music. I’ve been trying to introduce my boys to a different artist every day — ranging from Hank Williams to Little Richard to Post Malone. Part of homeschooling in the Rieckhoff house definitely includes proper music education.