IN THE WAKE OF HIS SON’S FATAL OVERDOSE, POLITICAL ANALYST ERIC BOLLING EMBRACED A NEW MISSION: BUILDING AWARENESS OF THE NATION’S OPIOID EPIDEMIC
BY JESSICA JONES GORMAN • PHOTOS ON FIRST THREE PAGES © AMESSÉ PHOTOGRAPHY
On September 8, 2017, Eric Bolling’s world came crashing down.
“We never saw it coming…never thought we would get that call,” the northern Bergen County resident and former Fox News host said in a social media public service announcement detailing the moment he and his wife, Adrienne, were informed of their 19 year old son’s death. “Every parent doesn’t want it, but we got it. And your mind tries to immediately figure out what happened, what went wrong.” Weeks of anguish followed until the medical examiner ultimately determined that the death of Eric Chase, the Bollings’ only son, was the result of an accidental opioid overdose.
“My son was not an addict,” Bolling told us during a recent phone interview. “It was the second week of his sophomore year at the University of Colorado, and he made a choice to experiment with drugs. He bought a Xanax tablet that was laced with fentanyl. It killed him overnight.” Bolling describes the tragedy as the most devastating event he has ever experienced, and recalls thinking that he had two choices go into complete denial and seclusion or speak publicly about his heartbreak and use the event as a catalyst for change.
“One pill can kill you,” he said. “And my message to parents for the past 13 months has been, ‘Don’t fall victim to the not my kid syndrome.’ You can be rich or poor, highly educated or with little to no education drugs do not discriminate. I’ve crossed the country this year, talked to a variety of families, and the sheer amount of young people who have tried opioids still surprises me. The number of kids who are innocently ‘experimenting’ with deadly drugs is catastrophic.”
In honor of his son’s memory, Bolling has joined the Trump administration’s efforts to combat the opioid crisis, which claims tens of thousands of lives each year.
“More than 74,000 people suffered fatal overdoses last year, and the vast majority of those were opioid related,” he said, calling those statistics staggering. “That’s like slamming a Boeing 737 into the side of mountain every single day. At some point, this has to stop.”
For the past year, Bolling has been dedicated to “drawing as much awareness as is humanly possible” to the nation’s drug epidemic speaking at high schools and colleges as well as at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), an annual political conference attended by activists and elected officials from across the United States.
“I want to draw attention to the fact that if this can happen to me, it can happen to anyone,” he said. “In February at CPAC, which is usually strictly a discussion of politics, I was inundated with young people telling me stories about their best friends, sisters, brothers…countless friends and family members who had experienced a run in with drugs. The young people of this country are at risk, and they need help.”
Bolling, who forged friendships with President Trump and other influential leaders during his television career at CNBC and Fox News, decided to use his celebrity as a platform to end the cycle of addiction.
“This is an epidemic that has to stop,” he said. Born and raised in Chicago, Bolling started his career as a professional athlete. “I came from a poor family, and as a kid knew that sports was my only way out of the neighborhood,” he said.
“I was a good athlete…received a college baseball scholarship and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates. But I injured my shoulder during my first season and needed a job. I ended up on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange,” recalling that at first it was a rough go. “I had absolutely no money background; I worked as a runner for a couple of years and had to learn a lot before trading on my own.”
But when oil prices skyrocketed and CNBC did a 90 second spot from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Bolling suddenly found himself with a new career.
“They put a microphone in my face, and I gave a quick analysis,” he said. “When it was over they asked if I could do it again the next day. I ended up with a regular gig.”
Bolling was cast in Fast Money, which featured a roundtable of traders discussing Wall Street news. The show was a success, and after a few years, he was recruited by Fox News in 2007.
“I’ve always loved politics, so to make the move from CNBC to Fox was a natural,” he said.
Bolling cohosted The Five, anchored Cashin’ In, and helped launch a late afternoon show called Fox News Specialists. He wrote two best selling books and filled in for Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity on a regular basis.
“I found my passion,” he said of working in television. “Financial and political reporting fascinates me.”
But in 2017, after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced in which Bolling was accused of sending lewd messages to colleagues via smartphone, he parted ways with Fox News. It was the same day as his son’s death.
“My whole world was altered that day,” he said. Over the past 14 months, Bolling has picked up the pieces, counseling audiences about the loss of his son and launching a new show, America, on CRTV.
“We’re doing amazing things with this show,” he said. “It’s like a political version of Parts Unknown in which we visit politicians on the steps of the Supreme Court, talk to real people about current events and local politics, and to influencers and leaders about their thoughts of what’s happening in Washington, D.C.”
It’s a project that has helped him return to some sort of normalcy after Eric Chase’s death. “It took me a while to even wake up and put myself together without falling down and letting my grief crush me,” he said. “He was only 19. This wasn’t supposed to happen.”
To get the message out even further, Bolling has collaborated with NASCAR, which has placed signage on one of its cars about ending opioid abuse. He is in talks with the NFL and the pro golf circuit to deliver similar messages. On November 28, he will give a speech on opioid abuse at Liberty University in Virginia to an expected crowd of 12,000.
“When Eric Chase died, I had no support system,” he concluded. “So I went to Twitter and said, ‘Look, this happened.’ I was overwhelmed by the number of people whom opioids are affecting. What I have done since then is talk about the stories…about people who are worried about a loved one a child, a brother, sister, mother, co-worker, friend. It helps to talk about it. Have those discussions with the people you love. Do it again and again, and get involved in your kids’ lives. Find out who they’re talking to, who they’re hanging around with. Keep an eye on what they’re spending and where they’re spending it. You might be able to save someone’s life.”