The host of Fox News’ Special Report discusses Donald Trump, confused dogs and preparing for a crowded GOP presidential debate.
Teresa Kroeger—Getty Images
July 23, 2015 7:00 AM EDT

Tell me the truth, Did anybody at Fox ever try to sketch out a 2016 Republican debate platform that fits 16 people?

No. Never. We from Day One said that the most people on a stage–that ever had been on a stage–was 10. And that was all that was feasible on one stage. I mean we agonized over how to do it.

No Hollywood Squares, with a four-by-four grid?

Yeah, Trump for the block? I’ve moderated five of these things, and the biggest challenge is juggling the time and making sure that everybody stays to time. If you have more than 10 candidates, I just think it would be unwieldy.

Pollsters say that if you’re dealing with people who are polling inside the margin of error, within a percentage point of one another, you can’t reliably know who is polling in the top 10.

I would argue, What is a better way for a national debate in Cleveland on the same stage where the Republican nominee is going to accept the nomination? There has to be some measure, and we’re going to do our best to pick the best polls with the biggest samples.

The Real Clear Politics average has Chris Christie and Rick Perry at 2.8%, Rick Santorum at 1.8%, Carly Fiorina at 1.6%. Two of those four probably won’t make it.

That’s exactly right. And you know, there will be decisions to be made that week. And if there is a legitimate tie and we can’t break it, we may add another podium.

In 2012, Fox debuted the doorbell debate buzzer, confusing dogs around the nation. Will the doorbell be back?

We’re in the process of getting our sounds. The doorbell caused serious problems. I literally got 1,000 emails from dog owners who said they were racing to the door every time we rang it. And we were ringing it because the candidates were not paying attention.

Could any sound stop Donald Trump from talking if he gets on a roll?

I’m not sure. I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say that I have woken up in cold sweats wondering how I’m going to deal with a Donald Trump who’s not listening.

The Republican National Committee has asked media organizations to partner with conservatives for the debates. CNN is bringing in Hugh Hewitt. At Fox, you’re doing it with three news anchors. Is that the RNC acknowledging that “fair and balanced” has a conservative tilt?

We didn’t like that stipulation from the beginning, and so we pushed back pretty hard because we wanted what we used last time to be our template. I’m surprised that the other networks went along with it. We wouldn’t.

Back in the 2012 debates, Fox News had some of the toughest questions of any of the networks. What makes a good debate question?

Short questions are best–ones that take them off their talking points, ones that can assume what you know they’re going to say about a certain issue because you’ve listened to it on the trail 7 billion times.

On a personal note, your son Paul, who was born with heart problems, is doing well.

He’s doing great. Growing like a weed. He’s 8, and he’s in all kinds of camps, unstoppable. He’s had three open-heart surgeries and seven angioplasties, and he’ll have another surgery probably in three to five years.

What did you learn about yourself through that whole process?

That there are much bigger things than this job. There are much bigger things than the politics that we cover day to day. And that I need to remember that every day.


This appears in the August 03, 2015 issue of TIME.

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