that Trump has agreed to sit for a one-on-one interview with Kelly in
May not only ushers in a new chapter in a months-long saga, it could
also represent a triumph for Kelly and Fox News, but also for Trump’s
designs on the White House.
“Mr. Trump, one of the things people love about you is
you speak your mind and you don’t use a politician’s filter. However,
that is not without its downsides, in particular, when it comes to
women. You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs’
and ‘disgusting animals.’ …
Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women’s
looks. You once told a contestant on ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ it would be a
pretty picture to see her on her knees.
Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect
as president, and how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton,
who was likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the
war on women?”
Trump’s reaction after the debate was to accuse Kelly of journalistic
bias and to attack her integrity and credibility. Legions of Trump
supporters hurling misogynistic and vitriolic venom
at Kelly via social media, some of the attacks enjoying the imprimatur
of Trump himself via a re-tweet from his powerful Twitter account.
Trump personally went after Kelly in a vicious, personal way:
“Certainly, I don’t have a lot of respect for Megyn
Kelly. She’s a lightweight and y’know, she came out there reading her
little script and trying to be tough and be sharp. And when you meet her
you realize she’s not very tough and she’s not very sharp.” Then, came
the kicker: “She gets out there and she starts asking me all sorts of
ridiculous questions, and you could see there was blood coming out of
her eyes, blood coming out of her … wherever.”
And it just got worse from there. Trump boycotted the Fox News debate
in Iowa after a hot exchange of tweets and press releases. They met in a
debate setting once more in March but most of the fireworks that night
came from Marco Rubio and Trump’s hand size.
Now, as the primary season winds down and Trump begins to focus on
his potential nomination in Cleveland and the general election showdown
with Hillary Clinton, he’s decided it’s time to put the feud behind
him. The announcement of the exclusive, in-depth interview scheduled for
May 17th could very well be the turning point of Trump’s negative
numbers with women voters (which Politico reports are hovering around 70%.)
To see this interview with Kelly as a media triumph, we have to make a
couple of reasonable assumptions. First, let’s assume Kelly conducts
the interview in the same way she does every night on The Kelly File,
with tough, relevant and respectful questions meant to illuminate an
issue and not alienate her guest. Let’s also assume that Trump, knowing
all eyes are on him, will conduct himself in a respectful and restrained
way including a legitimate walk-back from some of the more over-the-top
comments he’s made about the Fox News superstar.
I’ll even predict that Trump offers a statement of regret (if not an
actual apology) over how the feud spun out of control and how Kelly was
negatively impacted by the vitriol from Internet trolls. I suspect Trump
takes the opportunity to state that although he’s had differences with
her, he admires the classy way Kelly has conducted herself and they let
bygones be bygones from this point forward.
I think it’s also a fair assumption that Kelly accepts the apology.
Why wouldn’t she? Not only has she expressed that she dislikes being
“part of the story” but it positions her as a major media player in the
run up to the general election. It also puts pressure on Hillary Clinton
to sit with her for a similar interview. After all, Clinton recently praised
Kelly as a “superb journalist” who didn’t deserve the rough treatment
doled out by Trump. Well Mrs. Clinton, if Trump scould face Kelly, the
“superb journalist,” why can’t you? Or, is she just a “superb
journalist” when she serves your purposes as a “victim” of Trump’s
misogyny? If you really respect Kelly as a journalist, grant her the
ultimate respect and sit with her, one-on-one, like Donald did.
Kelly has already laid the groundwork for a “Kumbaya” moment with this quote from the Fox News statement announcing the interview:
“Mr. Trump and I sat down together for a meeting earlier
this month at my request. He was gracious with his time and I asked him
to consider an interview. I am happy to announce he has agreed, and I
look forward to a fascinating exchange — our first sit-down interview
together in nearly a year.”
If this interview goes the way I’ve laid it out, and both parties
walk away with mutual respect and a “contrition sound-byte” that plays
all over social media and the media for multiple news cycles, it’s a win
for Kelly, a win for Fox News, and it reverses one of the most
unfortunate and ugly narratives of the Trump presidential campaign.
If he can do that, it may be one of the greatest media triumphs of modern presidential politics.
Big “ifs,” I know, but not implausible at all.