Hot off the stage after interviewing country music newcomer Blake Shelton, Fox 5’s "Good Day New York" co-host Greg Kelly took time out of his demanding schedule to speak about his Irish heritage, the passion he has for his career and his plans for this coming St. Patrick’s Day.
Kelly, 41, is the son of New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Although there are traces of his dad in his ruggedly handsome features, Kelly stands alone in his exceptional career as a journalist and television anchor. Kelly spoke about growing up in Garden City, Long Island in a very Irish family.
“Our Irish heritage was always very important to us,” said Kelly, while polishing off a fish dish cooked on the popular morning show a half-hour before.
“Every year during St. Patrick’s week we would all attend our local parade in Long Island and of course eat corn beef and cabbage and wear lots of green,” smiles Kelly while reminiscing. “They were great times, and this year is going to be very special.”
That’s because Kelly’s father has been chosen to lead the 249th annual New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade down Fifth Avenue on Wednesday, March 17.
“I’m so proud of my father, I can’t tell you how much this means to us,” Kelly said eagerly.
“As a little kid we always learned about the importance of the grand marshal and took pride in St. Patrick’s Day, and now to have our own dad lead the parade in New York is unexpected. It’s nice and so special. It makes me so proud,” said Kelly, whose translucent brown eyes lit up when he spoke about something so close to his heart.
Kelly, whose great grandparents hail from counties Roscommon, Longford and Cavan, will spend this St. Patrick’s Day marching with his family through the streets of New York City as his father heads the parade.
“It will be 48-hours of non-stop activity but I’m looking forward to it,” he smiled.
However, before Kelly gets to have some family fun, he will celebrate the day on Good Day New York.
“Each year we bring on Irish guests and at some point we will have my father on,” said Kelly.
The police commissioner is no stranger to the show. When asked if he has interviewed his father before, Kelly said “Oh yes, maybe about 10 or so times.”
He said there is usually good banter between the pair.
“I would have fun with him, saying, ‘Who’s your favorite son, me or James,’” he laughs.
Kelly said the night last year when his father was announced as the 2010 parade grand marshal was one he will never forget.
“It was really great. What a night,” he recalls.
The commissioner, who brought along Jennifer Lopez and her husband Mark Anthony to the party at the Irish Consulate in Manhattan, spoke about the struggles and triumphs of Irish emigrants just like those his grandparents had to endure.
"We too have in inextinguishable love for the home of our ancestors," said Ray Kelly during his acceptance speech.
A day in the life of Greg Kelly goes something like this -- alarm rings at 4 a.m. He gets up and makes it into the Fox studios on 3rd Avenue and 67th Street a little before 5 a.m.
While Fox reporters Heather Nauert and Reid Lamberty tackle the 5-7 a.m. segment, Kelly prepares to go live (at 7 a.m.) by running through the list of guests he is scheduled to interview in the few hours that follow with his co-host Rosanna Scotto.
He also makes time to share a few punchy jokes with weatherman Mike Woods. For the next three hours, Kelly reports and discusses current news topics affecting New Yorkers, and on a lighter note has some fun with people in the entertainment business.
When the clock strikes 10 a.m, Kelly’s work on air is complete. He then prepares for mid-morning meetings to go over upcoming shows.
Although he may have some downtime during the afternoon before he goes out into the city for his night segment – “After Hours” - Kelly is never really off duty.
“Because of phones and Blackberries now I’m always working,” he said. “This job is probably the most intense in terms of time. You know in some jobs you have a lull? Well, you don’t with this and I like it that way,” said Kelly, alluding to the fact that he is a bit of a workaholic.
Kelly, who is being honored as one of IrishCentral.com and Irish Voice's Irish American Media Top 30, a key listing of Irish Americans in the U.S. media industry, went to Fordham University in New York and graduated with a BA in political science.
In between his studies, Kelly worked as an on-air reporter at WFUV.“I really enjoyed WFUV’s Irish programs. I was a regular listener,” he said.
Kelly joined the Fox News Channel in 2002 and served as the White House correspondent from 2005-2007. In spring 2007 he became co-anchor of Fox and Friends before joining the weekday morning news and feature show, Good Day New York on Fox 5 in July 2008.
It was his earlier days at Fox that Kelly said will resonate with him forever. He extensively covered the war in Iraq while serving four long-term assignments in Baghdad.
In 2003 he widely reported on the U.S. invasion in an operation dubbed Operation Iraqi Freedom. Kelly was firmly embedded with the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, 2nd Brigade.
“The invasion of Iraq was definitely one of the most exciting stories I’ve covered,” answered Kelly without hesitation when asked to name a highlight in his journalism career.
Kelly was the first television journalist to exclusively broadcast live pictures of the U.S. Army reaching Baghdad on April 5, 2003. Making headlines across the U.S., Fox News featured Kelly riding a tank through the city of Baghdad while, on a split screen, the Iraqi Information Minister Muhammad Said al-Sahhaf was shown at a press conference saying that U.S. forces were not present in Baghdad.
Continuing to provide the world with compelling images and outstanding reporting, Kelly captured the storming of Saddam Hussein’s presidential palace a few days later.
While on the job, Kelly received a minor shrapnel wound to the face when a mortar round exploded in his vicinity. Kelly was crossing the Euphrates River with his infantry when the incident took place.
As years went on Kelly’s hunger for a great story had him revisit Iraq several times. He also reported some compelling stories from Kuwait, Pakistan, Gaza and the United Arab Emirates.
Kelly started his journalism career on the morning news program at WIVT, an ABC affiliate, in Binghamton, New York. He scooped his first major exclusive interview there with President Bill Clinton.
Following on from that, Kelly took up a position as political affairs reporter for NY1 in New York City. He provided round the clock coverage of the World Trade Center bombings on September 11, 2001. He was also the to-go journalist for the mayoral campaign earlier that year.
Kelly, a licensed commercial pilot, is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. Before he began reporting from war-torn counties, Kelly served nine years with the U.S. military as a jump jet pilot with the AV-8B Harrier jet. He was involved in over 150 aircraft carrier landings and flew over Iraq in Operation Southern Watch, enforcing the United Nations imposed no fly zone.
Although he was in Ireland many times during his career as a journalist, mainly on stopovers, Kelly said he wants to take time to explore the land his father’s grandparents hailed from.
“Yes, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for the longest time, to see and travel Ireland,” he says.“I hope to get to there before the end of this year, in fact.”
In the meantime, Kelly will continue to keep his Irish heritage close to his heart and have as much fun as he possibly can with it this St. Patrick’s season.