NEW YORK – When Donald Trump sat down with Megyn Kelly for a satellite radio interview that aired on Thursday, it was a long way — in time and circumstance — from their most memorable encounter in the summer of 2015.
That was when Kelly, then a Fox News star, infuriated the future president at a GOP debate with a question about his treatment of women. He bitterly attacked her after the debate, and his supporters joined in, leaving her worried about threats.
Kelly, who later worked at NBC News, is now resurrecting her career as a journalist-commentator, with a podcast that was picked up as a two-hour weekday show on SiriusXM satellite radio. Sirius last week announced it had signed Kelly to a deal that extends through the 2024 election and beyond.
Do the bad feelings linger?
“All that nonsense between us,” Kelly said this summer, “is under the bridge.”
It seemed that way through the mostly friendly, occasionally challenging interview taped this week at Trump's Bedminster, New Jersey, home. There was only a brief, quickly brushed aside mention of that moment during the debate eight years ago.
“That was a bad question,” Trump said in the interview.
“That was a great question,” Kelly responded.
“No, it was a nasty question,” he said.
“It was awesome,” Kelly said before quickly pivoting to tell him, “You handled it well. Your poll numbers went up. Let's move past that.”
A startling 24 million people tuned in to Fox in August 2015 for the first Republican primary debate of the 2016 election season.
Setting up one of her questions as a moderator, Kelly said to Trump, "You've called women you don't like fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.”
Trump interrupted with what he hoped would be a laugh line.
“Only Rosie O'Donnell,” he said.
Kelly pressed on. “For the record, it was more than Rosie O'Donnell,” she said. “Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women's looks. You once told a contestant on ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president?”
After the debate, in the middle of the night, Trump began going after Kelly on Twitter and later in interviews, including one on CNN in which he said, “You can see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
Trump later boycotted another debate telecast by Fox because Kelly was one of the moderators. Fox News chief Roger Ailes called on Trump to apologize, although Kelly said in a later interview that Ailes was reluctant to fight back against attacks on Kelly by the Breitbart website for fear of alienating Fox's audience.
It was a rough time.
“It's not that I'm worried that somebody is going to shoot me down,” Kelly later said in an interview with CBS News. “But I do worry that somebody is going to try to hurt me in the presence of my children.”
Kelly left Fox for NBC News, an ill fit where she was taken off the air following an uproar when she suggested that it was OK for white people to wear blackface on Halloween. NBC and Kelly negotiated a divorce agreement in January 2019, in the second year of a three-year contract.
Kelly went into business for herself, starting a podcast in September 2020. A year later, SiriusXM picked up her show, and video began being shown on YouTube.
She has built her show into one of the highest-ranked in Chartable's list of news podcasts. She has also had 2024 presidential candidates Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, Chris Christie and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on her show.
Some of her questions to Trump in the interview airing Thursday were friendly, like when she said, “Can you believe they never put (former first lady Melania Trump) on the cover of Vogue? They put (White House press secretary) Karine Jean-Pierre there.”
She challenged Trump at a number of points, such as why he didn't end birthright citizenship when he was president and why he didn't remove COVID-era medical adviser Anthony Fauci, a villain to many conservatives, from his job.
She asked him about complying with a subpoena in the documents case against him.
“This is very scary for you,” she said. “You’re facing left-wing judges. You’re facing some likely left-wing juries, at least three out of four. There is a realistic chance of you going to prison. Can you see that happening?”
Kelly was notably silent, however, when Trump made false accusations about “a lot of fake ballots” in the 2020 presidential election.
She said later that if she constantly fact-checked Trump, “the interview would go five hours. You can't do that as anchor. You're going to bore the people at home and you're going to waste valuable time.”
The goal of the interview was not to emerge with Trump's jugular, she said.
“I give him a ton of credit,” she said. “You tell me. Could Joe Biden have done that? Could Joe Biden have done five minutes of that, just five minutes?”