NEW YORK When Megyn Kelly sits down with Donald Trump for her prime-time special on the Fox broadcasting network, the Fox News Channel host hopes to call a truce to the war waged by the presumptive Republican nominee since he began slamming her after last August’s Republican debate, where he was galled by her tough questioning as one of its moderators.
Being targeted by Trump has helped raise her profile and boost her star power, “but none of that takes into consideration the downside of being in Trump’s crosshairs,” she said during a recent interview with The Associated Press. “It’s been a year of security guards and closed blinds. I hope this interview will be a chance to clear the air in front of the American public, to get it over with, then move on.”
Kelly said she’s excited to be venturing from the harder-edged format of “The Kelly File,” where she has reigned since 2013. Airing May 17 at 8 p.m. EDT, “Megyn Kelly Presents” is produced by veteran Barbara Walters collaborator Bill Geddie, with Walters’ “Most Fascinating People” specials as its model.
“I’m not Barbara,” said Kelly, “but this is an opportunity to have a different kind of conversation than I’m used to.”
Those conversations will include actor Michael Douglas, a cancer survivor whose health has been an object of concern in recent media reports. (“He’s looking good,” reported Kelly.)
She will also talk with Robert Shapiro, famously part of O.J. Simpson’s defence team for his murder trial.
“I was in law school when that case was being tried, and I was riveted,” said Kelly, who practiced law before getting into TV. “It’s not that I think O.J. Simpson is innocent. But it was great lawyering by Shapiro. To me, he’s a rock star.”
Also on tap: Laverne Cox, the transgender activist and actress who appears on Netflix’s drama series “Orange is the New Black” and who, said Kelly, “puts a human face on a group of people who are still maligned, in many parts of the country, with impunity.”
But the main event will be Kelly’s meeting with Trump, whose tirades against her have included a sneering reference on CNN to her menstrual cycle and tweets dismissing her as “lightweight” and “second-rate.”
Speaking with a reporter recently in her cozy Fox News office, she declined to share details of the interview, but took pains to say she isn’t seeking a rematch.
“I understand that this is not a presidential debate. This is an interview,” she said, then smiled. “Let me put it this way: I have nothing to prove. I think the American people know I can be plenty tough on any political candidate, and this is not going to be about proving anything to anybody.”
Detente began last month when Kelly had a private one-on-one with Trump.
“I was a little nervous to go into Trump Tower that day, because I didn’t know what to expect. But from the moment I entered his office, he could not have been nicer. I won’t say it wasn’t awkward, but there was nothing acrimonious between us. It felt like a journalist talking to the candidate about the race. We did not touch on anything about us. We did not touch the dustup. I asked him for an interview. He said he’d think it over.
“I had wanted to reach out to Trump since (the first debate in) August,” she went on, “but I kept waiting for him to not be angry. I didn’t think he’d say yes, and I didn’t think it would be a good interview, if he was still angry. And just when I would think he was past it, he would start up again. Then in April, there was a two-week lull, so I reached out.
“I am looking to move beyond the acrimony on his end,” she said. “It has never been on my end.”
This new TV venture airing on (for her) a new network serves as a reminder that Kelly is no stranger to new challenges. Is the time nearing when she might hanker for a challenge that takes her beyond the Fox orbit?
She is a blend of glamour and gravitas perhaps unmatched by any other TV newswoman today, with a “Vanity Fair” cover and a show (airing weeknights at 9 p.m. EDT) that ranks second in all cable news, behind only Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” with an average audience of 2.5 million viewers. She could expect a warm welcome by either of the cable-news networks trailing Fox News, or by most any other TV news outlet. Her contract reportedly is up in mid-2017.
“I’m very happy with Fox,” she said. “(Fox News Chairman and CEO) Roger (Ailes) has taken very good care of me for 12 years. So I think it would be tough to leave him. But having said that, I don’t know what the future will bring. It’s a fickle business and anything can happen.”
In the more immediate future, Kelly is keen to do a follow-up Fox special, she’s writing a book due out this fall, and stays busy with “The Kelly File,” where, she says, she feels a higher calling than the cage-match style of much of cable-news talk.
“I want ideas to be exchanged and fleshed out,” she explained before voicing an idyllic mission statement: “We want to present cool water. What I’ve told my team many times is: I want the show to feel like cool water on a hot brain, a pleasant news-consumption experience.”
Having said that, she realized she was overdue to get ready for that night’s show.
“They won’t put me on TV like this,” she said of her off-camera look — on this day, boots, jeans and a tuxedo jacket over a white T-shirt. “So I have to get my bells and whistles. They need to dress it up a little.”