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Jim Lehrer Explains How Coming Up With Debate Questions Causes Him Undue Stress

Leading up to tonight’s presidential debate, hosted by longtime moderator Jim Lehrer, Lehrer opened up to PBS about his process of coming up with good debate questions causes undue stress on both Lehrer and his wife.

Lehrer explained that he has to prepare himself ahead of time to be able to listen to the candidates’ answers, while acknowledging the very real fact that something he says or grills a candidate on could have an actual impact on the race. Lehrer said that he tries to “digest it all” ahead of time and “imagine the candidate” responding to his questions.

The only person Lehrer shares the final draft of his questions with his wife, Kate Lehrer. Lehrer’s wife described herself as “Alice in Wonderland” going through the rabbit hole and the process of going through her husband’s questions as “nerve-wracking” and very “surreal.”

When Lehrer was preparing for the 1992 three-way between George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ross Perot, Lehrer’s wife was on tour, and he called her hours before the debate with his questions. Lehrer admitted he was stressing out as his wife talked to him. Lehrer’s wife said that she had to take a walk in order to calm down, saying things like “I’ve ruined the debate for your daddy!” In the end, Lehrer admitted that his wife was right.

Watch the video below, courtesy of PBS:

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