Bolt is seen as one the nation's most influential and controversial political commentators. He is described as a conservative but rejects the label "right-wing".
Bolt was born in Adelaide, South Australia, to newly arrived Dutch migrants. He spent his childhood in remote rural areas, including Tarcoola, South Australia, while his father worked as a schoolteacher and principal. After completing secondary school, Bolt travelled and worked overseas before returning to Australia and starting an arts degree at the University of Adelaide. He left university to take up a cadetship at The Age, a Melbourne broadsheet newspaper. He worked for The Age in various roles, including working as a sports writer, prior to joining The Herald. His time as a reporter included a stint as the newspaper's Asia correspondent, based first in Hong Kong and later in Bangkok. He worked for the Hawke Government on two election campaigns.
Bolt has had various roles on numerous TV networks, radio stations and in the print media.
In 2005, Bolt released a compilation of newspaper columns in a book entitled Still Not Sorry: The Best of Andrew Bolt.
Bolt's column and articles are published by News Corp Australia in the Herald Sun and his column is published in The Daily Telegraph, The Advertiser in Adelaide, Northern Territory News and The Courier-Mail.
In May 2005, Bolt established a web-only forum in which readers could offer comments, feedback and questions in response to his columns. He posted some of these comments on the Herald Sun website. The forum changed to a more conventional blog format in July 2006.
He hosted a daily radio show, Breakfast with Steve Price and Andrew Bolt, on the former MTR 1377.
He appeared weekly on radio station 2GB in Sydney for The Clash with union leader Paul Howes and as of 2016 was a regular guest four nights a week on Nights with Steve Price, which is broadcast on 2GB and Melbourne's 3AW.
From 2001 to 2011 he was a regular guest on Insiders.
Bolt left Insiders in May 2011 to host his own weekly program The Bolt Report on Network Ten. The Bolt Report ended on Ten in 2015 and, in 2016, Bolt became a contributor to Sky News Live. The Bolt Report subsequently resumed on Sky News Live in May 2016 as a nightly format.
He has also appeared on the ABC television show Q&A and ABC Radio National Late Night Live with Phillip Adams.
In June 2003, Bolt published an article criticising Andrew Wilkie in which he quoted from a classified intelligence document written by Wilkie as an intelligence analyst for the Office of National Assessments. It was claimed, but never proven, that someone in Foreign Minister Alexander Downer's office had leaked the document to Bolt. A spokesperson for the Australian Federal Police said that they did not have any evidence to identify the culprit.
Bolt has frequently clashed with Robert Manne, Professor of Politics at La Trobe University, about the Stolen Generation. Bolt claims there were no large-scale removals of children "for purely racist reasons". After Bolt challenged Manne to "name just 10" children stolen for racial reasons, Manne replied with fifty names, which Bolt in response said included children rescued from sexual abuse and removed for other humanitarian reasons. Manne argued that Bolt and others were engaged in historical denialism despite "a mountain of documentary evidence and eyewitness testimony". Bolt noted many instances of contemporary Aboriginal children being left "in grave danger that we would not tolerate for children of any other race because we are so terrified of the 'stolen generations' myth."
Bolt has questioned the very existence of the Stolen Generation. Bolt stated that it is a "preposterous and obscene" myth and that there was actually no policy in any state or territory at any time for the systematic removal of "half-caste" Aboriginal children. Robert Manne responded that Bolt did not address the documentary evidence demonstrating the existence of the Stolen Generations and that this is a clear case of historical denialism. Bolt then challenged Manne to produce ten cases in which the evidence justified the claim that children were "stolen" as opposed to having been removed for reasons such as neglect, abuse, abandonment, etc. He argued that Manne did not respond and that this was an indication of unreliability of the claim that there was policy of systematic removal. In reply, Manne stated that he supplied a documented list of 250 names Bolt stated that prior to a debate, Manne provided him with a list of 12 names that he was able to show during the debate was "a list of people abandoned, saved from abuse or voluntarily given up by their parents"; and that during the actual debate, Manne produced a list of 250 names without any details or documentation as to their circumstances. Bolt also stated that he was subsequently able to identify and ascertain the history of some of those on the list and was unable to find a case where there was evidence to justify the term ‘stolen’. He stated that one of the names on the list of allegedly stolen children was 13-year-old Dolly, taken into the care of the State after being "found seven months pregnant and penniless, working for nothing on a station".
The Bolt/Manne debate is a fair sample of the adversarial debating style in the area. There is focus on individual examples as evidence for or against the existence of a policy, and little or no analysis of other documentary evidence such as legislative databases showing how the legal basis for removal varied over time and between jurisdictions, or testimony from those who were called on to implement the policies, which was also recorded in the Bringing Them Home report. A recent review of legal cases claims it is difficult for Stolen Generation claimants to challenge what was written about their situation at the time of removal.
In 2002, magistrate Jelena Popovic was awarded $246,000 damages for defamation after suing Bolt and the publishers of the Herald Sun over a 13 December 2000 column in which he claimed that she had "hugged two drug traffickers she let walk free". Popovic stated that she had in fact shaken their hands to congratulate them on having completed a rehabilitation program. The jury found that what Bolt wrote was untrue, unfair and inaccurate, but cleared him of malice.
Bolt emerged from the Supreme Court after the jury verdict, stating that his column had been accurate and that the mixed verdict was a victory for free speech. His statement outside the court was harshly criticised by Supreme Court judge Bernard Bongiorno, who later overturned the jury's decision, ruling that Bolt had not acted reasonably because he did not seek a response from Popovic before writing the article and, in evidence given during the trial, showed he did not care whether or not the article was defamatory. Justice Bongiorno ordered that Ms Popovic be awarded $210,000 in aggravated compensatory damages, $25,000 in punitive damages and $11,500 interest. The judge stated that the damages awarded were significantly influenced by Bolt's "disingenuous" comments he had made outside court and the Herald Sun's reporting of the jury's decision. The Court of Appeal later reversed the $25,000 punitive damages, though it upheld the defamation finding, describing Bolt's conduct as "at worst, dishonest and misleading and at best, grossly careless".
In September 2010, nine individuals commenced legal proceedings in the Federal Court against Bolt and the Herald Sun over two posts on Bolt's blog. The nine sued over posts titled "It's so hip to be black", "White is the New Black" and "White Fellas in the Black". The articles suggested it was fashionable for "fair-skinned people" of diverse ancestry to choose Aboriginal racial identity for the purposes of political and career clout. The applicants claimed the posts breached the Racial Discrimination Act. They sought an apology, legal costs, and a gag on republishing the articles and blogs, and "other relief as the court deems fit". They did not seek damages. On 28 September 2011, Justice Mordecai Bromberg found Bolt to have contravened section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.
The case was controversial. Justice Bromberg had been active in Labor Party politics. Bolt described the decision as a "terrible day for free speech" in Australia and said it represented "a restriction on the freedom of all Australians to discuss multiculturalism and how people identify themselves. I argued then and I argue now that we should not insist on the differences between us but focus instead on what unites us as human beings." Jonathan Holmes of the ABC's Media Watch described Justice Bromberg's interpretation of the Racial Discrimination Act, and his application of it to Bolt's columns as "profoundly disturbing" because it reinforced concerns that 18C creates "one particular area of public life where speech is regulated by tests that simply don't apply anywhere else, and in which judges - never, for all their pontifications, friends of free speech - get to do the regulating."
The prominent Aboriginal activist Noel Pearson later stated: "The essence of indigeneity … is that people have a connection with their ancestors whose bones are in the soil. Whose dust is part of the sand. I had to come to the somewhat uncomfortable conclusion that even Andrew Bolt was becoming Indigenous because the bones of his ancestors are now becoming part of the territory."
On 6 June 2017 Bolt was assaulted in Lygon Street, Melbourne by two masked men, while a third apparently filmed the attack. Bolt was going to the launch of The Art of the Impossible by Steve Kates, an associate professor at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). The book is about Donald Trump and the 2016 US presidential election campaign. Melbourne Antifa appeared to claim a connection in the incident on Facebook, posting that Bolt attacked "some of our family in solidarity ... while they were protesting today".
Bolt is married to Sally Morrell, a fellow columnist at the Herald Sun. They have been married since 1989 and have three children. Bolt is an agnostic.