Fox News had a kill switch for Donald Trump in the event the frontrunner hijacked the first Republican presidential primary debate in Cleveland last week, anchor and debate co-moderator Bret Baier revealed in a new interview with the Los Angeles Times.
"I would say the level is about an eight on the concern meter because of the unknown," Baier told Times reporter Stephen Battaglio hours before the record breaking cable news event featuring the former star of "The Apprentice" at centerstage. Baier, the host of Fox News' "Special Report," would go on to "hone each line" of his prepared questions for the top 10 Republican candidates up to the last minute, focusing ever intently on the billionaire occupying the top spot -- infamous for his longstanding habit of talking over others:
Baier even had a "nuclear option" at the ready for Trump if he ignored all protocol.
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."
It was Baier's first question that set off the eventful night's first fireworks after a painfully awkward introduction by the moderators. Baier asked for a show of hands from any candidate(s) who refused to pledge his support to the eventually GOP nominee, forgoing any potential third party bid. Trump was the only candidate to raise his hand.
But it was, of course, a question from co-moderator Megyn Kelly that set The Donald off during the debate and into a rage-filled weekend, only arriving at a detente with the conservative network this morning after call of peace to Trump from Roger Ailes.
In the latest poll of Republican voters, conducted entirely post-debate, Trumped jumped seven percentage points to lead the field at 32 percent. His nearest Republican rival, Jeb Bush, stands at only 11 percent.
Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's Deputy Politics Editor and resides in Washington, D.C.
You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.