Behind The Scenes At the FNC Debate
The LA Times’ Stephen Battalgio writes about some of the things that went on behind the scenes in the run up to FNC’s GOP debate as part of a big profile of Bret Baier…
With the Republican presidential debate less than 10 hours away, Fox News anchors Chris Wallace, Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier sat at a long table with their producers and once again went over the game plan for the big night.
They reviewed not just the questions they would ask, but the structure of every query, keeping in mind the constraints of time and the need to avoid repeating topics. As they sorted and re-sorted questions, the unpredictability of real estate tycoon and reality TV star Donald Trump was never far from their minds.
Baier even had a “nuclear option” at the ready for Trump if he ignored all protocol.
The script — which he didn’t have to use — took a page from Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” TV show. It went like this: “Mr. Trump in your business you have rules. You follow rules. We have rules on this stage. We don’t want to have to escort you to the elevator outside this boardroom.”
“We’re hoping we don’t have to use it,” Baier said later. “We’re locked and loaded.”
Embedded with the news team on debate day, it becomes clear that it’s not just the Republican hopefuls who will be on stage this night — it’s also Fox News, widely seen as the network most friendly to conservatives. No one here wants to appear as if they are pitching softballs.
Indeed, when Kelly rehearsed a question for another candidate — delivered in the staccato style that adds to her reputation as a tenacious interrogator — a producer at the table said, “He’ll go berserk.”
And then there’s this…
Baier even anticipated that some Republican Party faithful would agree with Trump that they were too tough and he was right. Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the lower polling presidential candidates in the afternoon debate, called the evening session “an inquisition.”
The reaction didn’t surprise Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes. “Most of the criticism I get is from the right because they assume I’m going to do a certain thing and I don’t necessarily do what anybody assumes,” Ailes said in an interview Friday. “This is an example of that.”
But Ailes limited his input on the broadcast to how it looked on screen and offering encouragement to his on-air team to be tough and fair. Counter to reports that he’s involved in all things Republican, he said he had no hand in coming up with the challenging questions. He was confident in his on-air moderating team, which he described as “the best we’ve seen in television history.”