Judging by the gauzy, white background behind Megyn Kelly Tuesday night at the opening of Megyn Kelly Presents on the main Fox network, you might have wondered if the cable superstar had either traveled to heaven to interview God himself or was auditioning to replace “Flo” on those surreal commercials for Progressive Insurance.
But, lo and behold, no, Ms. Kelly was merely interviewing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, a recorded session that felt stale and stilted and rather schmooze-y for a host who gets hyped as one of the few, real, hard-hitting “journalists” among the prime-time personalities on cable’s right-wing Fox News Channel.
Because the interview was taped and edited long before airtime, Ms. Kelly didn’t ask Mr. Trump about The New York Times piece on Page A-1 Sunday about his alleged history of misogyny and sexism. She had no chance to ask him about the devastating Super PAC ad released this week that uses Mr. Trump’s own words about women against him as women repeat them in lip-sync.
Instead, viewers got mostly soft-focus pablum, with Ms. Kelly sitting in Mr. Trump’s corner office, at a marble conference table, asking him tepid questions and rarely following up with tough ones.
Of course, the conversation peaked when they talked about their nine-month feud that began last August when Ms. Kelly challenged Mr. Trump on the first question of the first Republican debate.
KELLY: “We were always friendly.”
TRUMP: “Right. Good relationship.”
KELLY: “And then comes the August 6, 2015 debate and I asked you a tough question about women using only the words that you had used. I thought it was a fair question. Why didn’t you?’
TRUMP: “I thought it was unfair. First of all, I didn’t think it was really a question. I thought it was more of a statement.”
‘Do you like girls that are 5-foot-1? They come up to you-know-where.’
Pause here. For the record, Ms. Kelly asked nine months ago: “Mr. Trump, one of the things people love about you is you speak your mind and you don’t use a politician’s filter. You call women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals… Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president?”
At the time, Mr. Trump answered: “What I say is what I say and, honestly, Megyn, if you didn’t like it, I’m sorry. I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be, based on the way you have treated me. But I wouldn’t do that.”
For the next nine months, however, Mr. Trump referred to her on public Twitter messages as “Crazy Megyn” and suggested her tone of questioning might have been based on her menstrual cycle.
He re-tweeted messages calling her a “bimbo.” Because Ms. Kelly had instantly defined one of the core campaign issues—Mr. Trump’s personal attitudes toward women—his incessant degradation of her, personally and professionally, raised her profile while she is finishing an old contract and looking toward new horizons. Even Hillary Clinton has called her a “great journalist.”
Mr. Trump did not go that far on Tuesday’s telecast, but he was magnanimous.
“I don’t really blame you because you’re doing your thing,” Mr. Trump said. “But, from my standpoint, I don’t have to like it… In a certain way, what you did might have been a favor because I felt so good having gotten through.”
When Ms. Kelly mentioned the oft-tweeted word “bimbo,” Mr. Trump responded.
TRUMP: “Did I say that?”
KELLY: “Many times.”
TRUMP: “Ouch. OK. Excuse me.”
And Mr. Trump also praised Ms. Kelly for calling him and visiting Trump Tower to arrange an interview on his turf, overlooking the city that made him wealthy in real estate.
The show had a lot of commercials, including one with “Flo” herself selling insurance. Too bad there was no time left to sell to the “Priorities USA” political action committee that used audio recordings of Mr. Trump’s voice with regular people—most of them women—repeating his words on camera in perfect lip-sync.
“You know, you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes… Blood coming out of her wherever”
“Does she have a good body? Does she have a fat ass? Absolutely.”
“Do you like girls that are 5-foot-1? They come up to you-know-where.”
“If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”
“I view a person who is flat-chested as very hard to be a ’10.’”
“And you can tell them to go (bleep) themselves.”
As they spoke, the actors in the ad wore tee shirts showing large images of Mr. Trump’s face twisted in unflattering expressions. At the end, a female voice asks: “Does Donald Trump really speak for you?”
Instead, they went over well-plowed ground, Mr. Trump telling Ms. Kelly about his brother’s early death after alcohol abuse and how he warned impressionable young Donald not to imbibe.
“I never, I have never, had a glass of alcohol,” Mr. Trump said.
TRUMP: “I have other problems, OK?”
KELLY: “What are they? Get specific.”
TRUMP (smiling): “I don’t want to talk to you about that. That would be too good.”
Hmmmm. In that Ms. Kelly had promised “nothing is off-limits,” she could have followed with a question like:
“But Mr. Trump, you were a major public sybarite during Manhattan’s sleazy period of the 1980s. Did you ever use cocaine or heroin or ecstasy or marijuana or any other illegal substance?” (She’s a former law-talkin’ gal, you know?)
In that “nothing is off-limits” and Mr. Trump’s invisible tax returns are in the news, she might have asked:
“Mr. Trump, why aren’t you revealing your tax returns? Is there something there you don’t want the public to know?” (Perhaps she was intimidated by Mr. Trump’s answer to George Stephanopoulos last week: “None of your business!”)
Or, in that “nothing is off-limits” and seeing as how Mr. Trump has already brought up the sexual behavior of former President Bill Clinton from decades ago, Mr. Trump could have been legitimately asked:
“Mr. Trump, have you been sexually faithful to your current wife?”
Of course, that would have ruined the mood of reconciliation as Fox and Mr. Trump grow closer together again and the battle lines of the election are forming.
At the end of the show, Ms. Kelly promoted her new book which—Surprise!—comes out right after the election and shortly before next season’s War on Christmas. (Pssst! Makes a great gift!)
In that book, she promised, she would write about her true feelings about her nine-month feud with Mr. Trump. Anxious voters will just have to wait for that and pay for it after they’ve voted.
In fairness to Ms. Kelly, it should be pointed out that she also asked Mr. Trump if he’d been bullied as a boy.
“No,” he said.
(Her hint here?)
And she also asked if he would tone down his ooze of mean and petty insults that have lowered the level of campaign dialogue to school recess on the playground with the class bully.
“Well, I’m going to stop that about you,” Mr. Trump told Ms. Kelly, “because I like our relationship right now.”
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.