Megyn Reveals Behind-the-Scenes Details of How She Prepares for Debates and Whether or Not She Gets Nervous

Megyn is one of the moderators of the fourth Republican primary debate on Wednesday, December 6, at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. She will be joined at the moderator desk by NewsNation anchor Elizabeth Vargas and The Washington Free Beacon editor-in-chief Eliana Johnson, but it’s a team effort to prepare for the event.

On Wednesday’s show, Megyn was joined by NewsNation politics editor Chris Stirewalt to discuss behind-the-scenes details about what goes into crafting and selecting debate questions and what the goal is as a moderator.

The ‘Dream Team’

Wednesday’s debate, which airs on NewsNation, Rumble, and SiriusXM, will mark Megyn’s return to the world of presidential debates. She was a co-moderator of two GOP primary debates in both the 2012 and 2016 election cycles alongside her then-Fox News colleagues Bret Baier and Chris Wallace. 

As she explained, Stirewalt and former Fox News executive Bill Sammon were also part of “the dream team” that prepped for those big nights. “People don’t realize how much work it is, at least for us,” she said. “Those tough questions that made news in good ways and bad ways were all us, everybody weighing in together.”

While Baier and Wallace are not involved in Wednesday’s debate, Stirewalt and Sammon are. “We got the gang back together… along with Eliana, Elizabeth, and some other teammates sitting in there,” Megyn said. “And that’s the magic that makes the questions go from good to great.”

Crafting Questions

Stirewalt explained that preparing for a debate is different than preparing for an interview. “When you’re interviewing, you’re going back and forth – you’re nudging, you’re interrupting, you’re doing a little verbal pause,” he said. As a result, the questions are often short and free flowing.

Debates can’t work that way. “These [questions] have to be self-contained,” Stirewalt shared. “That means that you have to craft them, build them, make sure that they’re airtight, and then you have to make sure that they’re journalistically credible. You can’t shortcut that.”

Megyn agreed. “It takes hours and hours to come up with one [debate] question,” she said. “Contrast that with what I do for this show, which is I read all the news, my team gives me a [research] packet… and then I ask questions… I don’t have scripted questions.”

The framing of debate questions is designed to get candidates out of their comfort zone and away from their stump speeches and talking points. “You’ve got to figure out what’s the way in, what’s going to make it more interesting, what could they actually debate,” Megyn explained. “Because that’s what people want to see.”

To start, Megyn said most of the questions are “two paragraphs long,” and they get refined bit by bit. “Over time, you just edit, edit, edit, edit,” she noted. “Ideally, you get it down to like three lines, so that [the candidates] can be the star when you’re done.”

While Stirewalt joked that you often have to be willing to “kill your darlings” (a.k.a. your favorite questions) during the prep process, Megyn said the ultimate goal is to foster dialogue between the candidates. “Our plan, in an ideal world, is to kill our darlings… as the candidates take over the show – that’s what we consider a win,” she shared. “We’re setting them up perfectly to debate, and we want them to debate. We want them to be the stars, not us.”

Nerves of Steel

Later in the show, Megyn was joined by Stu Burguiere, host of BlazeTV’s Stu Does America, and Daily Mail columnist Dave Marcus, and the guys asked her if she gets nervous before the events like this. “I don’t really get nervous anymore; I get excited,” she said. “I’m psyched, and I’m looking forward to it.” 

As it gets closer to ‘show time,’ Megyn said her senses usually heighten. “I always call it like ‘you put on a superhero cape’ – that’s how I felt when I was going out there for the big nights on Fox,” she shared. “Your senses get a little sharper. It’s like fight or flight almost.”

This time around, that cape might look more like a blanket. After freezing “her buns off” during Tuesday’s show, Megyn’s assistant Abby came to the rescue with a heated blanket that may or may not make an appearance at the debate. “This is the secret weapon, America,” Stirewalt quipped. “You have now seen the secret weapon, which is a heated blankie.”

You can check out Megyn’s full analysis by tuning in to episode 680 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.