“Let’s just dive right in,” Megyn Kelly said at the beginning of her first prime time special on Fox Broadcasting, opening her special with the main event–her heavily hyped interview with Donald Trump.
“Mr. Trump did not like the question … at all,” Kelly said of her question to Trump at the first Republican presidential debate, the moment that set off what Kelly has described as a “dark year” enduring repeated attacks from Trump and his supporters.
Trump didn’t apologize for his comments about Kelly, and she surely did not apologize for her question. Pressing Trump on his language–and his bullying style–Kelly couldn’t get Trump to admit to having made a mistake, but he did admit to regret. “Absolutely I have regrets … I couldn’t done certain things differently. But overall, I have to be very happy with the outcome.”
And the same could be said for Kelly herself.
Liberated from the tight time constraints of cable news, Kelly relaxed into her role as heir to Barbara Walters, taking her time with Trump and her other guests–Laverne Cox, Michael Douglas and Robert Shapiro–in front of a national broadcast audience.
The pacing, and the production, were very reminiscent of Walters’ classic ABC specials–no surprise given the involvement of Walters’ longtime producer Bill Geddie. In a 2007 interview with Texas Monthly, Geddie said one of Walters’ great strengths as an interviewer was simple: she listened. “The really good questions were follow-ups—she heard something and she went there,” Geddie said.
The same was true of Kelly Tuesday night. She pounced on Trump when he strayed from her question or attempted to maneuver onto more comfortable turf. Each time he tried to pivot, Kelly reeled him back–often interrupting him to do so.
She also used silence to great effect, letting moments hang to let them breathe–and to see what would happen.
When Kelly asked about Trump’s Twitter habits–including his frequent retweeting of particularly offensive comments–the candidate insisted he never retweeted the worst of what was out there, Kelly stepped in. “Bimbo?”
“Did I say that?”
“OK. Excuse me,” said Trump with an awkward smile–and an awkward pause. Kelly, in control, did not let Trump off the hook or move on. She sat and waited. It was great television, and an effective use of the medium that fast-paced not-a-second-of-dead-air interviews miss.
Forced to sit without a life line, Trump pressed on–even continuing his answer after Kelly was set to move on. “Not the most horrible … over your life, Megyn, you’ve been called a lot worse, isn’t that right?”
“It’s not about me,” she told him. But after her debut Fox TV special, many may think it is indeed very much about Megyn Kelly–and they may be eager to see more of what she can do.