Megyn Kelly’s first primetime special on the Fox network Tuesday night was a good one – for Donald Trump.
It was probably good for her, too, in that I am guessing she drew a decent-sized audience for her premiere. And the added exposure will probably launch her onto an even bigger stage in the realm of popular culture – one that might make her more than Fox News can afford when her contract expires next year.
But Trump was the biggest winner Tuesday night by a mile.
By sitting down with him and having this semi-schmoozy, smiley-face, Barbara Walters-like, show-biz interview, Kelly provided Trump a kind of sanction with some women that he could never buy. And that’s going to go a long way in countering what those super-PACs spending tens of millions of dollars to attack him day and night as a misogynist monster are saying.
How dangerous could he be to women if Megyn trusts him with her cell phone number? And she says she gave it to him, because he promised he would never use it “for evil.”
Forget all that back and forth since she took him on at that first big Fox debate in August. They’re getting along nicely now. She calls him “Mr. Trump,” and says how “gracious” he was to meet with her at Trump Tower. And at the end of the show, they were even teasing about how he watches her all the time on Fox News and didn’t really “boycott” her show totally even though he called for that on Twitter.
I’m surprised they didn’t exchange air kisses.
As someone who has long championed Kelly and made 2,000 new enemies at Fox News since August for repeatedly saying her managers and colleagues didn’t do enough to defend her against Trump, I watched her interview Tuesday with a certain rueful bemusement.
She did something journalistically important in August calling out Trump for his despicable comments about women. But Tuesday night wasn’t about journalism, was it? It was about show business.
Some of my colleagues will undoubtedly parse the interview as if it was a journalistic exercise. Did she ask tough questions? Did she ask good follow-ups? Did she get things out of him that no other interviewer did?
For the record, she got nothing special or even mildly exciting of him, and I thought the did-somebody-hurt-you-in-your-life line of questioning was naïve and maybe even a little silly with someone as skilled at this game as Trump.
The extent to which the interview was a game that Trump controlled was made apparent when Trump talked about alcoholism in his family and why he doesn’t drink.
“I have other problems,” he said laughingly when she asked if he never has even one drink.
When Kelly asked him what those problems might be, he smilingly declined discussing them saying, “that would be too good.” He knows the different levels at which such celebrity interviews are done. That kind of information was “too good” for this kind of session. The fact that the two of them were sitting down together was enough. He didn’t have to give anything real away.
I wish I could end this by saying all the show-biz kabuki dancing going on between them didn’t really matter. But even though it wasn’t journalism, the sanction of a professional woman who’s become an icon of assertiveness and success as Kelly has is a very big victory for a candidate like Trump.
What happened Tuesday night on Fox could have huge political consequences for Trump -- and the nation -- to use one of his favorite words.
But I guess that’s not Kelly’s problem now. In the world of show business, all that matters on her end is that she had a big opening act on her opening night.