Shepard Smith had barely started his program when a Fox News producer told him that their reporter had snagged an interview with Chris Christie, the challenger locked in a tight race with New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine.

“Here I am, the face of the network, it’s a week before the election, and our station is about to put a Republican on live and have nothing from the Democrat,” Smith recalls now. He reacted viscerally at the time, telling viewers: “Wow. . . . My apologies for the lack of balance. If I had control, it wouldn’t have happened.”

Seated in his Sixth Avenue office with an erect posture that matches his caffeinated style, Smith says he was unaware that correspondent Shannon Bream had grabbed Christie on the fly. “I came off looking condescending,” he says. “I handled it poorly.”