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With the next 2016 primary contest now two days away, the TV news media has descended on Wisconsin. For one TV news anchor, it’s a homecoming. Greta Van Susteren, grew up in Appleton, Wis., and got her undergraduate degree from UW Madison. This afternoon, she was at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee hosting her second town hall debate of this cycle. The town hall, with front-runner Donald Trump, airs tonight at 8 p.m. ET.
TVNewser went behind the scenes as the Fox News crew finished the final camera blocking, mic checks and lighting tweaks inside the Mainstage theater at UWM. I’ll have a minute-by-minute look at how these cable news town halls comes together, tomorrow. First, our interview Van Susteren and her take on the 2016 race so far:
TVNewser: Earlier today I was reading in the Appleton Post Crescent, your hometown newspaper, that you’re not planning on asking any “gotcha” questions. But isn’t Donald Trump the epitome of the gotcha answer?
Van Susteren: Well, I may get a gotcha-type answer, but I see my role here is to get information for the voters. If he says something that’s provocative and gets himself in firestorm that’s his business.
TVNewser: At this point it’s less than two hour before the town hall. Do you have all your questions ready, or are you still finalizing that?
Van Susteren: I do. Because we live and breathe these elections, and virtually every question has been asked. What I’m trying to do is make it a little more Wisconsin-centric–because they’re voting in two days.
TVNewser: Do you plan to ask about the inner workings of his campaign, for example the Politico story yesterday about how campaign manager Corey Lewandowski’s role in the campaign may have been minimized because of the Michelle Fields situation?
Van Susteren: Probably not. I don’t think anyone cares. That’s inside baseball. I’m talking with my friends who grew up here and work here, and if I say ‘Corey Lewandowski’ They’ll say ‘who’s that?’
TVNewser: But you do this better than anybody, taking people behind the scenes on GretaWire and on your social channels. And last week you wrote about how several conservative women pundits signed on to a letter demanding the campaign remove Lewandowski. And you wrote that by doing that, those women couldn’t cover the campaign without bias…
Van Susteren: Well, they probably can. Look, we’re all covering it. Here’s the thing, Chris. A lot of women, Christiane Amanpour, Andrea Mitchell, Judy Woodruff, Greta Van Susteren, Susan Page. All the women who have covered campaigns over the years. We fought real hard to get into this room. We want to be part of the scrum. This thing got a life of its own. I’m not suggesting in any way should you touch anyone intentionally. I’m not in favor of that at all. But if you’d asked Christiane Amanpour to sign that letter, or Andrea Mitchell, I think they would have said ‘no.’
TVNewser: You’ve got the hometown crowd here. Some of your high school friends are here from Appleton….
Van Susteren: And grade school friends…
TVNewser: What’s it feel like to host one of these town halls in your home state?
Van Susteren: I have a special affinity for this state. This is my club.
TVNewser: What do you think of all these town halls across the cable networks?
Van Susteren: I think town halls are a million times better than debates.
Van Susteren: I think candidates answer questions differently for the media than for the people. They answer questions more deeply, and you have bigger answers. And they’re not looking for insults from each other. They’re actually answering the questions.
TVNewser: And you’ve got another town hall tomorrow night with John Kasich in New York.
Van Susteren: We were literally putting these things together today. So I’m not even sure what the audience is going to be.
TVNewser: Are you trying to get other candidates like Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to take part?
Van Susteren: Always. If any viewer has any complaints that we’re not asking the questions, we are. I get on the phone and call up these campaigns. We’ve made the same offer to every candidate.