Donald Trump, Megyn Kelly and the art of the con – Poynter.org
Why might a cynic have wondered if Megyn Kelly’s primetime Fox network interview with Donald Trump would fall short of David Frost’s evisceration of former President Richard Nixon? Might it have been the afternoon tweet and photo from a beaming Trump himself, his arm around a grinning Kelly, her arm around his back, and the declaration, “I will be live tweeting my interview with @megynkelly on the Fox Network tonight at 8! Enjoy!” (@realDonaldTrump) Or was it the night before, on the Bravo cable channel, when she conceded that she’d once not just touched his hair but “run my fingers through it” to see if he wore a wig. (Decider)
At minimum, the soft-as-a-grape session on the Fox broadcast network climaxed one of the more impressive acts of self-and corporate promotion in recent times. You remember the tumultuous Fox News debate, her seemingly steely questions about his misogyny, the nasty Trump responses, his faux boycott of Fox News, and the Trump back-and-forth with Fox guru Roger Ailes? It seems so very long ago. Then came the Kelly crosstown Manhattan pilgrimage to Trump Tower, the wink-wink hint of a detente and, then, bingo, announcement that he’d surface for her first big Barbara Walters-like celebrity special.
Last night brought the no-news interview and an unabashed promotion for what she disclosed (lucky viewers) would be an upcoming autobiography, including her year of “torment” with Trump! Yup, saving the critical stuff for the book — and after the election — despite weeks of hawking what proved “a convivial, easygoing interview.” (The New York Times) It was ultimately “bankrupt.” (The Washington Post) “Republicans (go) like, ‘Woo, we got a pass, we’re having a good night,'” said CNN’s Chris Cuomo this morning. The whole thing brought back memories of how the then-New York Yankees owner, George Steinbrenner, and his frequently hired and fired manager, Billy Martin, lampooned their own 1970s front-page frictions in a fabled Miller-Lite commercial where they debated whether the beer tasted great or was less filling before Steinbrenner smiled and declared, “Billy, you’re fired!”
Once Trump’s heralded inquisitional nemesis, the new Kelly-Lite could cash in now as a crisis communications or branding consultant for Fortune 500 companies, reclusive ne’er do wells or entire sovereign nations. Consumer fraud hurting sales? Wanted for mass murder by the International Criminal Court in The Hague? Tourism down due to the Zika virus? She’s got the entrepreneurial thrust, and her income would make her current and future Fox take resemble that of a Walmart sales associate. And that doesn’t include book royalties. It’s been quite a transformation.