That Time Bret Baier Ran Into Chris Matthews in Cleveland

By Brian Flood 

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Fox News Channel’s Bret Baier chatted with the Los Angeles Times’ Stephen Battaglio “over a New York strip and a glass of Cabernet” in Cleveland last week as he prepared to co-moderate the record-breaking first GOP primary debate with Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace. Baier says the pressure of the debate “doesn’t even rate,” compared to family issues he’s had to deal with.

On Baier’s bigger challenge: 

Born with a major heart defect, [his son] Paul required surgery just days after he came into the world and a second operation months later. (Though he faces more surgery as he grows up, he’s now an active and healthy 8-year-old who is on a swim team and shares his father’s obsession with golf.)”It changed who I am,” Baier said. “It changed where my mind is. The debate is a huge event. It’s a big night. But in the big picture, families around this country are out there dealing with something like sitting in an emergency room waiting for their kid to get out of surgery. So Donald Trump not listening to a buzzer when his time is up — in the big picture — that doesn’t even rate.”

On debate preparation:

Before every debate — he moderated five during the 2012 primary season — Baier will spend 10 minutes alone behind a closed door to pray.

“I’ve done that every time and that gets me ready,” he said. “It’s just a quiet moment. No computers. It’s meditative. It’s a thankful and grateful thing to be in the spotlight.” He’ll put in that time even after attending Catholic morning Mass with his mother, Pat, and brother, Tim, who both traveled to Cleveland to watch him in action.

On encountering MSNBC’s Chris Matthews:

As Baier makes his way to the exit of the restaurant, he’s stopped by veteran Washington journalist Chris Matthews of MSNBC. Matthews grins and shakes his head in wonderment over how Trump has given Fox News a potential political spectacle for the ages.

“You guys have got it made,” Matthews tells Baier, repeatedly.

On Trump:

Off camera, Baier said he has played golf with Trump and describes him as a nice guy outside of his TV persona. He never believed Trump would actually enter the race. Trump not only got in, but his blustery entrance, powered by his inflammatory remarks about Mexican immigrants, has altered the narrative of the campaign.

On the “nuclear option” for a misbehaving Trump:

The script — which Baier 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. “[But] we’re locked and loaded.”