If you were waiting Tuesday night for the Megyn Kelly of the Fox News debates to grill Donald Trump over his slash-and-burn primary campaign, his ad hominem attacks on opponents and Kelly herself, or his inconsistent and often incoherent policy statements, you were sadly disappointed.
Instead we got the ambitious Vanity Fair cover girl doing her best Barbara Walters imitation, asking touchy-feely questions to the point where Oprah Winfrey might sue for copyright infringement. There were no questions about the Trump University fraud case going to trial, trying to seize a widow’s home through eminent domain, his position on abolishing NATO, his love of single-payer health care, or his position that Planned Parenthood does good things. As the Los Angeles Times so deliciously put it:
Megyn Kelly didn’t ask Donald Trump to headline her Fox special “Megyn Kelly Presents” so she could pin him down on foreign and domestic policy issues, or even confront him about the months-long troll attack he launched after she dared question him during the first Republican debate about his penchant for misogynistic language.
No, she invited him to costar in an hourlong infomercial for her new book….
We watched because we wanted to see Kelly, tempered by the Trump’s bitter attack and buoyed by near-national support, hold his question-dodging feet to some sort of fire.
Instead, we got a rehash of all that Kelly endured followed by a battle of the low-talkers in which Kelly, clearly prepped to avoid anything that might smack of hostility, searched for the source of Trump’s rage while she gently suggested that perhaps presidents should not be so mean, and Trump tried to appear as if he were answering her questions when indeed he was not….
Opening with the softest ball imaginable — When did it occur to you that you could be president? — Kelly initially pursued a theme of regret: Did Trump feel he had made any mistakes in the campaign? How did the death of his brother affect him? Had he learned anything from his divorces? Then she took things to a near-psychoanalytic place: Has Trump ever been wounded, or bullied?
Really? This fluff was a far cry from the opening salvo in the first debate, when Kelly grilled Trump on his views on women – a grilling that caused Trump to skip a Fox debate to hold a fundraiser for veterans. By the way, Mr. Trump, Megyn could have asked, why has so much of that money raised not yet reached veterans groups?
The ambitious Kelly is at a crossroads in her career, with her contract at Fox expiring a little more than a year from now. She fancies herself as the next Diane Sawyer, for whom she has professed admiration, or the next Barbara Walters. As Variety noted last June: