Megyn Kelly, this week’s Variety cover subject, scored 3.1 million viewers earlier this month with her exclusive interview with Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, who opened up about their son Josh molesting their daughters as a teenager. But as the Fox News anchor reveals, it wasn’t an easy process turning around the sensitive conversation so quickly. Kelly walked Variety through the 14.5 hours it took to land her scoop — and how it almost didn’t come together before airtime.
Kelly: “At 7 a.m., I caught a flight from New York to Arkansas with my executive producer, my line producer, my hair and makeup team and my assistant. I went directly to the house and met the Duggars for the first time. Some collection of the children were there. I didn’t count them — there were many. I got the tour, sat down, did the interview. My own producer wrapped me: ‘You’ve got to move on to the daughters.’ We ran for the car.
“We have 12 people on my staff, and everybody was typing as fast as their fingers could type. At the airport, I printed out the 36-page transcript. We’ve got this 50-minute interview, and we have to cut out 25 minutes, and make sure it’s still fair. They want to tell their story, but I want to hit them with the tough questions too. It’s got to have both. There’s only one person who can edit it, and that’s me.
“My crazy drafts are filled with notes and I’m handing it off to my assistant. She’s typing it and sending it from the plane. I had to get another edit to get it tighter. I land and get back to Fox News. It’s 7:40 p.m. We go on air at 9 p.m. The head of editing had five editors stay, which is unprecedented in the history of Fox News, because it requires money.
“It’s 8:30. I say to my line producer, ‘Are we there?’ She says, ‘We’re six minutes over.’ Six minutes is a lot to cut out of an interview! We don’t have a lot to spare. We’re not going to make it! In response, I sent out an email — I never swear in emails, I swear all the time in personal conversation — that said, ‘We are f—ed.’
“You know how the person finds superhero strength to lift a car off a child? That’s where I was at that moment. Everything became clear. The team motivated. We got to air at 9 o’clock. The A Block was done. The C Block was done. The D Block and the E Block were not done. The A Block airs and it’s beautiful — and I’m like, ‘Don’t celebrate! This whole thing could collapse at 9:30, and we might have dead air.’
“We get to the end, and it’s perfect. I said, ‘Get your asses to Del Frisco’s — I’m buying.’ In 14.5 hours, we had nothing and then we had what really was a highly produced beautiful broadcast that you could air on network TV any night of the week. Diane Sawyer had two months for the Bruce Jenner special. And if I dare say it, it did not look any better than what we did. I was very proud of my team.”
For more about Kelly, read this week’s cover story.