Megyn Kelly: how Trump’s foe built peace- and aimed for a bigger award

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The Fox News presenter ran for the jugular at the first Republican TV debate in August, so why did she act like a fawning publicist with Trump this week?

Will the real Megyn Kelly please stand up? Is she the fearless moderator who built America gasp and Donald Trump splutter when she fired the opening is the issue of the first Republican presidential Tv debate last August, reminding the billionaire that he had described various females as fat pigs, puppies, slob and disgusting animals?

Or is she the Megyn Kelly who turned up for run the coming week, marking her truce with Trump after nine months of sustained vitriol on his part, with a soft-soap interview on Fox that was as sharp and memorable as blancmange?

This weeks interview was a rare opportunity to hold the presumptive Republican nominee to account over his extremist platform on Hispanic immigrants, Muslims and women. Instead, she chose to ask him to describe the context in which he tweets: Im picturing, like, a crushed velvet smoking coat, chaise lounge, slippers, she said.

Maybe not as imagination as that, Trump responded, squirming in his seat along with 4.8 million television viewers.

It was a lovefest, said Mark Feldstein, who reported for ABC News and CNN for 20 years before becoming a prof of journalism at the University of Maryland. She achieved something so difficult with her gentle questioning: she made Donald Trump seem boring.

The strange metamorphosis of Megyn Kelly, 45, from her jaw-dropping performance at the first Tv debate to the fawning publicist we insured on our small screens the coming week is exposing. It tells us something about Kelly herself and the scope of her aspiration; it tells us quite a lot more about the parlous country of American television; and it also offers clues to how the implausible candidacy of Trump has come to be.

It would be hard to exaggerate how exceptional it was when Kelly ran straight for the Trump jugular last August. American political leaders and viewers alike have been brought up to expect bland questioning at presidential Tv debates, and nominees have been allowed to vet their interrogators in such a way that, as Feldstein put it, prefers milquetoast moderators who go easy on them.

Megyn Kelly and Donald Trump during the Fox special Megyn Kelly Presents, which aired on Tuesday. Photo: Fox/ Getty Images

That the Fox News Channel tore up that playbook is a testimony to the power both of Rupert Murdochs cable creation within the Republican firmament, and of Kelly herself, who even before she confronted Trump had shown herself to be no wilting lily. In the years since she gave up a promising law career to go into broadcasting, joining Fox News in 2004 and gaining her own show in 2010, she proved to be adept at skewering complacent ageing white men on air.

In 2011, on her first day back at Fox News after a break following the birth of her second of three kids, she invited on to her indicate Mike Gallagher, a conservative radio talk-jock who had called her maternity leave a racket. What is it about carrying a newborn for nine months that you dont believe deserves a few months off? she said.

Dick Cheney was told that time and time again history has been shown that you got it wrong in Iraq, sir the sir acting as a delightful twisting of the knife. In her most celebrated pre-Trump escapade, on election night 2012, Kelly rubbed Karl Roves nose into the camera lens with her now-famous stroll down the Fox News corridors to the decision room, where the channels number crunchers conclusively debunked Roves bizarre refusal to accept Barack Obamas victory.

Megyn is brainy, beautiful, extremely hard-working and savvy. Shes also one of the most driven people Ive ever encountered, said former Fox News anchor Laurie Dhue. When they overlapped at the channel, Dhue, who now runs her own company Laurie Dhue Media, said Kelly dedicated the impression she would let nothing stand in her style, and she hasnt. She has brass balls.

Dhue and other media observers devote credit to Roger Ailes, the designer and overlord of Fox News, for discovering Kelly. She falls into a long line of starrings who Ailes has invented or reinvented, from Greta Van Susteren to Sean Hannity and especially Bill OReilly, the undisputed monarch of Fox News who dedicated Kelly a leg up with a Kelly File segment on the OReilly Factor.

Now Kelly has begun to outdo even the once invincible OReilly in ratings among the crucial 25 -5 4 age group who advertisers love. He can hardly be thrilled with her starring now eclipsing his, Dhue said.

David Folkenflik, media correspondent for National Public Radio, said the privileged standing that Kelly has in the eyes of Ailes was reflected in the fact that she reports directly to him an upper-clas arrangement otherwise merely enjoyed by OReilly. Whether to please her mentor, or as a genuine expression of her own positions, Kelly has in return tilted at some classic Fox News windmills: shes said that Santa Claus is a white man, expressed admiration for the Tea Party movement and been an obsessional critic of that favourite Tea Party bugbear, Obamacare.

But theres also a less predictable side to Kelly that stands outside Fox Newss conservative convenience zone. There are times when she has seemed to chafe a little bit under the Fox model, perhaps because she does not want to be pigeonholed as being on the right, Folkenflik said.

The best instance of that was that spiky presidential debate topic she lobbed Trump, which she told Vanity Fair was all her own doing( I wrote it, I researched each line item myself ). When she accused the real estate tycoon of serially insulting females, he puffed out his chest, raised his( small) digit finger in the air, and said: Merely Rosie ODonnell.

No it wasnt, for the record it was well beyond Rosie ODonnell, she fired back without missing a beat.

It built for great television, and seriously rattled Trump. Over the ensuing months, the Republican frontrunner virtually stalked Kelly, constructing references to her menstrual cycle, dismissing her as crazy Megyn Kelly, and retweeting trolls who called her a bimbo.

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