Editor’s note: The following is a transcript of Janice Dean’s remarks upon receiving the Woman of Valor award, delivered at the 2021 Annual Awards Gala.
Heather Higgins: Hello. You all look beautiful, and the room looks beautiful. Amber and team, you have done an awesome job tonight. Thank you. So, for those of you who remember way back when, when we started this dinner, it was in memory of Barbara Olson. And since 2004, the Barbara K. Olson Woman of Valor Award has been bestowed upon some of the most influential female leaders in the country. It recognizes extraordinary women who have demonstrated a firm commitment to fearlessly standing for what is right, women whose work has helped make significant improvements in the lives of women and their loved ones. The seventeen past honorees include most recently Maria Bartiromo, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Ambassador Nikki Haley, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, among many other outstanding women who are all listed in your dinner programs. This year we are so proud to honor the fearless Janice Dean of Fox News. Who here loves Janice Dean? Yeah. For those of you who don’t know this, Janice lives with MS. She doesn’t dwell on it, but she also doesn’t hide it. And, at the recommendation of her doctor, considering a new treatment that she is undergoing, she is unfortunately unable to be here tonight to accept this award in person. But I do know that she is at home watching via live stream right now. So, if you would all turn around and on the count of three, we are all going to say, “Hi, Janice!” One, two, three. Hi, Janice! We wish you were here with us tonight. The good news is that Fox News stepped up to very quickly help us coordinate a special video with Janice in their New York bureau. Janice sat down with me for an exclusive video for those of you in this room here tonight and we will play that in just a moment. But first, I just wanted to tell you why we are honoring Janice, although I suspect you already know. There is a widespread perception created by the fake news media that no one realized until the New York attorney general’s report in early 2021 that Governor Cuomo’s nursing home order had been a catastrophe. But this is not true. Janice Dean in particular had been all over this issue since May of last year. CNN and similar news outlets treated her the way the Clintons treated Monica Lewinsky. They suggested she was a crazy woman. We, in contrast, admire her fearless work to expose the truth. She not only spoke up for the vulnerable, she faced down one of the nation’s greatest and most notorious bullies, Governor Andrew Cuomo. In true David and Goliath fashion, Janice took on a giant of corruption, deception, and fraud. The best part? While battling Cuomo, she managed to maintain her trademark attitude of mostly sunny. Janice’s activism this year, along with her successful career as one of the nation’s best-known meteorologists, is an inspiration to women and young girls everywhere. Congratulations to you, Janice, on receiving IWF’s Barbara K. Olson Woman of Valor Award. And now, let’s roll the video.
Heather Higgins: Janice, we are so happy to be honoring you this year and hate that you aren’t able to join us in person, but I am so glad to get to talk to you now.
Janice Dean: Oh my gosh, it’s my pleasure. And I’m sorry that I couldn’t be there in person as well to see everyone. I hope that we can do it at some point, so let’s keep in touch.
Heather Higgins: Oh, absolutely.
Janice Dean: But for the meanwhile, I am honored. I am honored with this award tonight.
Heather Higgins: So, let’s get started. First, it is easy to forget now since Andrew Cuomo has resigned in disgrace that when you started challenging him and calling for accountability you were taking on someone who was being lauded in the mainstream media as a hero. Indeed, they dismissed as crazy talk any effort to point out the insanity of his policies. Tell us about what made you decide to take him and this cause on.
Janice Dean: And I am not a political person, you know? I’ve been the meteorologist here at Fox News for 18 years, and this is the first time that I’ve ever really spoken out against a political figure. And it’s because we lost my husband’s parents in nursing homes in the spring of last year. We lost Mickey Newman, who was in a, you know, a nursing rehab facility, and then we lost his mom two weeks later and she was in an assisted living residence, so they were in separate care facilities, but the plan was we were going to have them together in the assisted living residence. But Mickey needed help. He was much more ill than his mom was, and so he needed rehab and we didn’t know he was even sick. We had no idea that there was a mandate to put COVID-positive patients into nursing homes. And we were quarantined. We didn’t get many updates on his father at all. The last time we heard, he was doing fine, and on a Sunday morning we get a phone call that said he wasn’t feeling well, that he was running a fever, and that they would, you know, keep us updated, and three hours later he was dead. And we didn’t even know he had COVID until the death certificate. And Sean, my husband, had to tell his mom on the phone because he wasn’t able to go see her in person — we were all quarantined — that her husband of almost 60 years was dead. And then, you know, she got sick. The last time my husband saw her was six feet away from her. He was bringing her flowers after Mickey had died and, you know, and some pictures, and was telling her just hang on, hold on and we’ll get through this. That was the last time he saw her, and she got COVID and was transported to the hospital and died there. And you know, I was doing my own investigative reporting. I was trying to figure out why they got so sick so quickly, and I wasn’t seeing the reports that I wanted to see about what was happening here in New York. There were thousands of elderly that were getting sick and dying. And so, when I saw that there was a mandate by our Governor Cuomo for 46 days to put COVID-positive patients into nursing homes, I thought it was an important thing to bring up.
Heather Higgins: So, what advice do you have for young people in particular who are truly afraid these days to speak up and disagree with orthodoxy?
Janice Dean: It has to come within, and I feel like, for me, it was something that happened to my family. It was personal. You know, I understand sort of, you know, thinking that you can’t make a difference and oh well, you know, I’ll let someone else do it, but what I’ve learned is if someone stands up and other people see that and feel that they might be going through the same thing, more often than not you will have a crowd of more people standing up to stand with you. And that’s you know, what I found with you know, trying to raise awareness, is that there are thousands and thousands of people that also want answers and accountability for something that I believe our government failed at. And so, even though you might feel alone, I think if your cause is worthy, you will have safety in numbers.
Heather Higgins: That is great to hear. One last question. I want to return to something you said before. And to put it in context, there’s garden-variety optimism, and then there’s Janice Dean-level positivity. And that’s perhaps best exemplified by something you have actually said several times, that being diagnosed with MS was a blessing. Could you not only explain why that was and why you see it that way, but what lessons others [inaudible] challenges more manageable?
Janice Dean: I think, you know, the old saying you don’t know what someone is going through until you have walked a day in their shoes. I think that that’s important. I think it’s important to remember just to be kind to others because you don’t know what someone might be going through. And being diagnosed with a chronic illness that has no cure was very difficult, especially for someone like me who for many years was, you know, you know, trying to do great things in her life and her career, but when you do go through challenges, sometimes that brings you to the most beautiful destinations. And you know, so many wonderful things have happened since that diagnosis, and I think it opened my eyes up to what was important. It does make you realize what is more important in life than the fancy career, or the clothes, or the makeup and the hair, and, you know, I love my job, I love the people I work with, but it’s my life at home with my husband and my boys that brings me the most joy.
Heather Higgins: Thank you so much. And what a perfect answer. I cannot think of a better woman of valor. Thank you so much for being our honoree and congratulations on receiving this award.
Janice Dean: I am very grateful and thanks to everyone that made this happen. I mean, it really, truly means a lot to me and so thanks to everyone that made this happen, this day happen.
Heather Higgins: Congratulations.
Janice Dean: Thank you.