20 questions with Fox News Supreme Court correspondent Shannon Bream

Much before Shannon Bream became Fox News’s Supreme Court correspondent, she was Miss Virginia 1990. As she prepares for what could be one of the bigger stories of her career — the Senate confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor — Bream reflects on what she has learned since her crown-wearing days.

You joined Fox News from WRC local news in 2007. What was the biggest adjustment?
Going from local news to a network operation is learning a whole new ballgame. The way you go about it and the stories you cover are so different. I feel at Fox I have a lot more autonomy about doing my work.

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What are you doing to prepare for covering the Sonia Sotomayor hearings?
As soon as President Obama was elected months ago, we started a notebook of potential nominees. Luckily she’s always been a part of that notebook. Once we got her name, we felt we were already in good shape. Now, with her Senate questionnaire, we’re weeding through that, and adding to what we already have. We’re just trying to keep up with the documents that continue to pour in.

How do you think Sotomayor will change the Supreme Court?
In the short term, I don’t think we’ll see any major changes to the way the court functions, or the 5-4 decisions we get. I think her temperament is wholly different from [Justice David] Souter’s.

Were you able to say anything to Souter on his last day? What was it like to see Souter be done?
That final day was also the day we got the very controversial Ricci [v. DeStefano] New Haven [Conn.] firefighters opinion. I wasn’t there to be able to see his final goodbye. He is very press-shy, so he would never be the type to come out and talk to the bank of microphones we have up.

Do you expect a food-fight among senators during these nomination hearings?
I think, at end of the day, most people think she will be confirmed. The question is how big the appetite is for those who would like to challenge her to engage in some serious questions and possibly some harsh tactic.

You were Miss Virginia 1990. What did you learn from that experience?
Oh, many moons ago. It forced me to grow up in a lot of ways. I had to take a year off of college and travel the state, doing public speaking and other things. As a 19-year-old, it was a growing-up experience for me.

What was your platform?
My platform, ironically, was political awareness, and I worked and talked about the fact that kids need to have a thorough understanding of the political process. America is so unique and so blessed in that way. I think because of efforts of Rock the Vote and other things, we’ve seen young people get involved in many ways over the years.

Your talent?
Classical piano. I played Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude.

Do you still play?
I do. I’ve never been fabulous, but I’ve been good enough to get by.

Had you been a pageant girl all your life?
I never did pageants as a kid, but when I got into high school, I did a couple that were tied to a sort of all-around academic student achievement program, something akin to Junior Miss, but not Junior Miss. That year I went to Miss America, that was the first year I had competed in an adult pageant, if you could call it that. So it was zero to 60.

What of that experience relates to what you’re doing now?
I think a lot of speaking extemporaneously, I think that’s probably the biggest point of connection between the two because sometimes you have to deal with changing circumstances. When you find yourself on a pageant stage, there are a lot of unpredictable moments, and I think a lot of that translates to doing the live, breaking-news reporting that I do know.

What did you think of the Carrie Prejean incident?
Man, as soon as she got the question on stage, I looked at my husband and said, “She’s done.” Because no matter how you answer that question, you’re going to alienate someone. On one level, I admire her because … she didn’t take the easy route.

Do you think beauty pageants still have relevance today?
I do. ... I’ve watched the Miss America system change a lot in the last decade or so, so they reflect a modern young woman who isn’t about having the perfect amount of hairspray on her hair … She’s got her own ambitions, her own opinions. To people who question pageants, my response is that any woman getting involved in Miss America knows exactly what she’s getting into.

Do you still watch Miss America faithfully?
I wouldn’t say faithfully. If I can, and I know it’s coming on, I do. I’m sure I’ve missed a lot of pageants.

When did you decide you wanted to become a reporter?
I had been practicing law for a few years in Florida, and I had always been a serious news junkie … but I was very hesitant to go down that career path because it had always seemed very unpredictable to me … I think there was a part of me that always sort of kept the door open, at least mentally, to go in another direction. When I had an opportunity in Tampa to do a couple of stories with one of the local stations, it gave me an opening into the newsroom, and I immediately fell in love with the whole concept.

What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you on-air?
How do I narrow that down? I think honestly the worst thing is when you cannot find a word that is incredibly common but for some reason you have a brain freeze. I remember doing a report outside a restaurant about E. coli, and I couldn’t remember the word meat.

When did you become interested in politics?
I grew up in a household that was very politically involved and plugged in, and I feel like I was around that my entire life. I remember trying to watch returns to elections as a child … I just was wired that way as a kid. I was kind of like an Alex P. Keaton, female version.

What has been the most memorable Washington-based news story you’ve covered?
I think last year when we got the Second Amendment decision on the D.C. guns case. The court had actually extended the term for a couple of days … the day that it finally came, I was determined — I wanted to be the first person on the air with it. People from all over the country were here picketing … there was so much electricity there that day in the court. As I grabbed the opinion, it was really thick. I just went running for the camera, and I had no idea what I was going to say. I looked down to see that Justice Scalia had authored the opinion, and I knew that it would be a big win for the gun-rights advocates. And I was the first person to get on air with that.

What are your plans for August recess?
I’m going to try to get away and do some fly-fishing with my husband — if he remembers what I look like … We go to Colorado or Canada to fly-fish. It’s the antithesis of Washington, because I like to go where I can turn off my BlackBerry.
 Kris Kitto

To recommend a political personality for 20 Questions, call  Kris Kitto at (202)628-8539 or e-mail him at kkitto@thehill.com.