We must assume Megyn Kelly of Fox News Channel got no new news out of Donald Trump last week when she interviewed him for her special this Tuesday night at 8 p.m.
Certainly a fair and balanced news organization as scrupulous as Fox would not suppress a genuine scoop for a few days to promote the debut of a pre-recorded show. That would be too tacky.
Megyn Kelly Presents will air on the main Fox network, against—among other things—The O’Reilly Factor on Fox cable. It is the latest stunt in Mr. Trump’s presidential bid that seems to have clinched the Republican nomination to run against the Democrat Hillary Clinton in November.
Tune in! See and hear how Mr. Trump and Ms. Kelly got past their spat of last year when her notorious debate question accused Mr. Trump of—dare we say it?—sexism and misogyny. And she has apparently recovered from Mr. Trump’s wisecrack about how menstruation affected her mood that day.
Put pettiness aside. The reality show must go on! Lights, camera, action!
“Trump was Trump and is Trump,” veteran interviewer Larry King told Brian Stelter on CNN’s Reliable Sources on Sunday. “What you’re seeing is a true reality star figure. He loves the media.”
Naturally, Media Buzz on Fox was even more effusive, as host Howard Kurtz devoted 20 whole minutes to promoting her show.
“I was nervous,” Ms. Kelly revealed. “I didn’t feel any need to go down there and try to take down Trump.”
Nevertheless, it was an “interesting, compelling exchange” and, Ms. Kelly said, “The audience is going to feel that way, too.”
Once again, Ms. Kelly is the Best (un)-Supporting Actress for her role in The Trump Show.
Perhaps the audience can judge for itself. As of Sunday, the only evidence came in little teasers like the one in the Fox promotion that showed Ms. Kelly facing off against Mr. Trump. He wears a dark business suit; she, the Fox Lady uniform of a sleeveless red dress cut in front a few inches below the chin.
“Let’s talk about us,” a stern-faced Ms. Kelly tells Mr. Trump, referring to their showdown of last August. Mr. Trump replies: “I wasn’t so fond of you at the time, I will tell you.”
This part is worth recording and running back in slow motion. As Mr. Trump ends his statement, the screen shot changes from the camera on Mr. Trump’s face to the one on Ms. Kelly’s face. She blinks. Her eyes widen. Her shoulders pull back. She seems stung—or is that a suppressed urge to lash back?
It’s the kind of ambiguous image you see in a soap opera or a reality show to end a segment just before the commercial. And it shows, once again, that Ms. Kelly is the Best (un)-Supporting Actress for her role in The Trump Show.
“You seemed to stay angry for months,” Ms. Kelly tells Mr. Trump, in a highlight on Media Buzz. “Was that real, or was that strategy?”
Fox wasn’t the only Sunday media outlet to trumpet her talk with Mr. Trump. The New York Times devoted a page and half to Ms. Kelly, a section-front package that included four photographs, including one of Ms. Kelly peering into a mirror to fix her blond hair.
Despite all that space and that many words, the piece reported not a thing about Ms. Kelly’s history of race-baiting and Islamaphobia, the same sort of stuff Mr. Trump pumps up. Hey, it’s all part of the script they all have read at Fox as they climb the career ladder at a network run by Roger Ailes, the man who long-ago sold the United States’ electorate The New Nixon. (How’d that work out?)
Much of the script of this year’s campaign reporting, according to Dylan Byers of CNN, is a result of a change in media—particularly in TV coverage—that began with the 2000 Florida recount that decided the election of George W. Bush over Al Gore.
“We’ve been building up to a point where politics and media just sort of coalesce and become the same thing,” he said. And on CNN’s State of the Union, Republican activist Ana Navarro called coverage of Mr. Trump “the daily telenovela drama.”
A curious counterpoint to the Ms. Kelly hype came early in the day on CBS News Sunday Morning, which ran a lengthy feature about Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, Ms. Kelly’s weekday competition in the 9 p.m. hour.
Reporter Rita Braver and her crew showed Ms. Maddow’s collection of full cut blazers which she wears on camera over jeans. (Unlike Ms. Kelly, Ms. Maddow doesn’t use a glass table that reveals her legs).
Ms. Braver mentioned that Ms. Maddow is a lesbian and Ms. Maddow talked freely of it, saying she came out at age 17 and is 42 now. The piece also mentioned Ms. Maddow’s occasional bouts with depression, which she seemingly keeps under control.
Ms. Braver offered praise for Ms. Maddow’s long, windy, winding openings at the start of her show and sometimes later, too.
“Spooling out the story, as she usually does, in a long, impassioned monologue,” she said.
‘Everybody thought that this was going to be a boring year… And this is the universe giving that a one-finger salute.’
Ms. Maddow was praised for her sense of urgency in covering the scandal of tap
Ms. Maddow got off the best quip of the segment when referring to Mr. Trump and others in the campaign.
“Everybody thought that this was going to be a boring year,” Ms. Maddow said. “And this is the universe giving that a one-finger salute.”
Best of the Rest:
FACE THE NATION John Dickerson’s first guest on CBS was Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, who didn’t see why people were so interested in Mr. Trump’s recorded phone call in which he allegedly pretended to be his own press spokesman when talking to People Magazine in 1991.
“He’s going to cause an earthquake in Washington,” Mr. Priebus said, changing the subject. Generally, earthquakes are regarded as disasters, although no doubt Mr. Priebus intended the remark in the most positive sense.
Mr. Priebus was asked about Mitt Romney, Bill Kristol and other right-wingers hoping to form a different sort of conservative third party to run against Mr. Trump. “It’s a suicide mission,” Mr. Priebus said, not noting that such missions—metaphorically speaking, of course—can have more than one victim.
In a discussion among Congressional Republicans about Mr. Trump, guest Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee said of the American electorate: “What they know is that Hillary Clinton is a lyin’, cheatin’, stealing-type woman and what they’ve got in Donald Trump is a can-do man.” (Aw, gimme that guitar!)
The show got serious when Mr. Dickerson interviewed Robert Gates, the former Secretary of Defense who has worked for every president since Abraham Lincoln. What about Mr. Trump?
“I worry a little about his admiration for Vladimir Putin,” Mr. Gates said. “He seems to think that he has all the answers and he doesn’t need advice.”
DICKERSON: “Would you serve him if he asks?”
GATES: “I learned a long time ago never to say ‘never.’”
Priebus said Trump would ‘blow up’ the system—using the violent metaphor with positive intent and not as a synonym for a horrible, destructive event.
In the second half of the interview, Mr. Gates revealed what it was like to disagree with President Obama on things like intervention in Libya.
“Always, I found President Obama very welcoming of honest and candid points of view,” Mr. Gates said. “He and I would have some very direct conversations… more often than not, he would end them by standing up smiling and saying ‘Are you sure I can’t get you to stay another year?’”
Funny moment of the show was from the opening of Saturday Night Live on NBC the previous night.
Actor Darrell Hammond plays the part of Mr. Trump, talking on the phone, pretending to be “Joey Pepperoni,” a spokesman for Donald Trump.
“No, I’m not Donald Trump in disguise,” Mr. Hammond says. “This is just what classy people sound like, OK?”
Changing the mood in the panel discussion, Jamelle Bouie offered a cynical take on Mr. Trump—whose sex life, income taxes and Twitter wars are defining the campaign.
“Trump’s argument is ‘Listen, I’m a sleazy guy. I’m not going to deny that. I am sleazy. I’m probably a little dishonest,’” Mr. Bouie said. “’But what you need in Washington is someone who is sleazy and dishonest for you.’”
He said Ms. Clinton has to say Mr. Trump is conjuring the worst impulses that Americans have for personal gain.
Susan Page added “The question here is whether the Republican candidate for president is fit to be president.”
Michael Gerson chipped in with “These are radical, dangerous foreign policy positions that he’s undertaken.”
FOX NEWS SUNDAY The show hosted by Chris Wallace burst open with “Explosive new charges about Donald Trump’s past” and the front-page story in the Sunday New York Times about how Mr. Trump has treated women over the years during and between his three marriages.
As Mr. Priebus made the rounds, Mr. Wallace scolded him.
WALLACE: “Unwanted advances… Whether he humiliated women in the workplace… I don’t understand why you say that people don’t care about that and are you going to look into the allegations?”
PRIEBUS: “It’s something Donald Trump is going to have to answer… a total outsider with potentially some flaws… Whether it’s going to be a race to the bottom or not, I’m not sure.”
In a vague allusion to former President Bill Clinton, Mr. Priebus said the Clinton camp should not throw stones from glass houses. He managed to turn some questions about Mr. Trump into statements about Bengazi.
But Mr. Priebus did send a clear and serious signal to Mr. Trump about revealing his taxes. A few days before, Mr. Trump told George Stephanopoulos on ABC that his tax bracket was “None of your business.”
“Romney released his taxes very late and he paid a dear price for it by playing games—footsie—with releasing it or not,” Mr. Priebus said. “It turned out to be something that was not good for us in 2012.”
Mr. Priebus then said Mr. Trump would “blow up” the system if elected president, apparently using the violent metaphor with positive intent and not as a synonym for a horrible, destructive event.
“People are angry,” he said. “That’s what this election is coming down to.”
In the Congressional Republican segment, former Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and current Representative Tim Huelskamp of Kansas were featured. While Mr. Gingrich said aw, shucks, he just might like to be vice-president under Mr. Trump, rhe tone was different from Mr. Huelskamp.
The Kansan said Mr. Trump “is demeaning to women. He’s vulgar. He’s crass… He’s all over on all the issues—this bathroom issue, he’s all over the map… his positions change, sometimes in the same speech. He has the New York values—there’s no question about that—and I don’t believe it plays well in Kansas or other conservative parts across America.”
Fox took the time to insert a 4:32 a.m. Twitter message from Mr. Trump about the front-page story in The Times about Mr. Trump and women.
“Why doesn’t the failing @nytimes write the real story on the Clintons and women? The media is TOTALLY dishonest!”
But an even crazier moment came when Mr. Wallace’s discussion group was hijacked by Brit Hume, who couldn’t stop thinking and talking about transgender people urinating and defecating and doing other things in North Carolina.
“This is an issue that came out of nowhere,” Mr. Hume thundered. “What happens when a man with male parts decides he is really a woman and would like to take a shower in the ladies locker room and there he is with his male parts exposed?”
“Now, is this really something that people are going to think is really OK in the name of civil rights? I don’t think so. I think the absurdity of this is so strong it’s hard for me to imagine the public wouldn’t be repulsed by it… Don’t ask. Don’t tell. And don’t show.”
STATE OF THE UNION Jake Tapper put the SNL sketch at the top of the show and then brought out Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s convention manager who appears to be his top spokesman and didn’t wish to discuss the question of Mr. Trump revealing his taxes.
TAPPER: “Is there something in there that Mr. Trump doesn’t want the American people to see and, for that reason, made the calculation ‘Better to take the hit?’”
MANAFORT: “He said there’s nothing in there. I have no basis to believe otherwise.”
Mr. Tapper went heavily into the allegation that Mr. Trump—acting through the alter ego of a publicity agent—bragged about actresses and other women who wanted to be with him. The recording of an interview with People Magazine was obtained by The Washington Post.
“Is the campaign seriously claiming that isn’t Mr. Trump?” Mr. Tapper said of the recorded voice.
“I could barely understand it,” Mr. Manafort said. “He said it’s not him. I believe him.”
When asked which traditionally Democratic states Mr. Trump might capture, Mr. Manafort said “Michigan” first, followed by Pennsylvania and some in New England.
Mr. Tapper showed a video of Mr. Trump insulting and demeaning Democrats and others who oppose him, including Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
“Crooked Hillary, she’s got this goofy friend, named Elizabeth Warren,” Mr. Trump told supporters at a rally. “She’s on a Twitter rant. She is her Goofus. She is a Goofus.”
Later, in the panel portion of the show, Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, said “We have a self-promoting huckster as the Republican nominee.” Republican activist Ms. Navarro said “I’m going to vote for Duane Wade. Go Heat.”
THIS WEEK Even with Mr. Stephanopoulos taking off, the ABC show was the most ambitions, with Marta Raddatz anchoring from Baghdad and Jonathan Karl helping from Washington.
But the producers kept going back and forth, mixing two stories and giving viewers whiplash.
In that Mr. Trump was laying low Sunday morning (except for Twitter), Mr. Priebus had to take the grilling in his place.
KARL: “Do you have any doubts about Donald Trump’s truthfulness?”
PRIEBUS: “Well, look, it doesn’t matter as far as what Ted Cruz said or what Lindsey Graham said… People are entitled to forgiveness and redemption.“
After lifting the New York Times front page, Mr. Karl asked: “Do you have any doubts in your mind about Trump’s relationship with women, about the way he talks about women?”
Mr. Priebus replied: “Look, these are things he’s going to have to answer for… as Christians, judging each other is problematic.”
In a strange turn with little to back it up, Mr. Priebus suggested The Times article was “a classic Clinton operation.”
In Iraq, Ms. Raddatz talked at length with Major General Gary Volesky. She seemed to know him well and they discussed how it for children to grow up in America while Daddy fights the bad guys far away. The conversation seemed genuine and touching.
When it was interrupted by two blasts of heavy gunfire, General Volesky quipped “That’s the sound of freedom right there.”
The Iraq segment was well-produced, with satellite images showing before-and-after pictures of war zones. General Volesky seemed optimistic about the fight against ISIS.
“Every day, they lose terrain and they’re not gaining anything,” he said. “And that’s really what’s different.”
The show ended back in Washington with a panel discussion that included Rep. Keith Ellison, a Democrat (and a Muslim) from Minnesota, who noted that Mr. Trump has walked back his plan to ban Muslims from the U.S. as merely a “suggestion.”
“He even lies about his own bigotry,” Mr. Ellison said of Mr. Trump.
Journalist Alicia Menendez, an anchor for Fusion, said she lives in South Florida where “Trump is toxic” among Hispanic voters. Mr. Trump has promised to deport 11 million undocumented aliens and to build a giant wall on the southern border to keep out Mexicans.
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.