The biggest stars to come out of the presidential primary campaign are Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders… and Megyn Kelly, anchor of Fox News’ The Kelly File, the second-highest-rated cable news show.
Kelly became Trump enemy No. 1 after she questioned the candidate about his demeaning comments toward women when she moderated the first GOP debate last August. But after a private meeting at Trump Tower last month, Kelly landed an interview with the leading Republican candidate for her first primetime special, Megyn Kelly Presents (Tuesday, May 17, 8/7c, Fox).
The one-hour show, produced by Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes and Barbara Walters’s longtime producer Bill Geddie, will find Kelly going beyond politics and talking to an array of celebrities, including Michael Douglas, actress (Orange Is the New Black) and transgender activist Laverne Cox and O.J. Simpson defense attorney Robert Shapiro. Here, Kelly opens up about her encounters with Trump, her dream interview and why she loves Judge Judy.
Why did you decide to ask for a sit-down with Donald Trump?
I would have asked to meet with him even if I didn’t have this pending special. I wanted to do that for months, but every time I geared up to ask, he would attack me again. I didn’t want to interview him when I was angry, so when there was a lull in his attacks in early April, I decided to strike. To his credit—Trump had not been a fan of mine for nine months—he could not have been more gracious in that hourlong meeting. We talked about a lot, but not what has happened between the two of us.
Did you save that for your special?
Absolutely. The audience will see it happen in the moment that he and I experience it for the first time.
Is this a pilot for a series of specials?
We’re trying to hit a single, and if that leads to more opportunities, then great. If not, I already have a day job that keeps me very busy and three children under the age of 7, so I’m good.
You’ve been hosting The Kelly File since 2013, but your profile really grew after you took on Trump. Are you thankful for that?
I would most definitely not use the word thankful. I understand why you’re asking that, but if I could go back to August 7, the day after the GOP debate, and remove all the controversy and the additional exposure that would come with it, I would gladly do that. It’s not something I talk about every night, but this past year has been hard in many ways.
Was it difficult to read the nasty and sexist comments about you from Trump supporters?
I’d like to tell you that it had no effect on me because I have a suit of armor that can’t be pierced. In truth, it’s been a rough, stressful year, full of acrimony. I’m lucky to have a very supportive and considerate husband [novelist Douglas Brunt], and being with my kids solves just about everything. I knew it was getting bad when I had time with my kids and I couldn’t get the situation out of my head.
It brought you a lot of new fans, though—people like Chris Matthews, Joy Behar and Michael Moore.
Chris was a fan before! [Laughs] The one nice thing has been that I have received a lot of support, love and kindness from unexpected corners. That’s what you hold on to in the midst of the storm.
Are you now the conservative whom liberals hate to love?
Well, I’m not a conservative and I’ve said that for years. People think that because I work at a place that has a lot of conservatives on the air. I’m an independent, but I’m really just not a political person, which helps me do this job. I have no horse in the race and I give both sides a tough time.
The apex of a news career used to be anchoring the broadcast network nightly news. What is your goal?
There is significant power to influence the national debate, and the sky’s the limit for a cable news host in my position. But that’s not the lens through which I examine my happiness or my career trajectory. I always just do a gut check. Am I happy? Is this working for me? Can I do better? I’m constantly reevaluating that. The only difference between you and someone you envy is you settled for less. So my life motto is “Settle for more,” and that requires work and introspection.
Your husband once compared you to Oprah Winfrey and Walter Cronkite. What did he mean?
Don’t forget the most important part of that, which is “a little Larry the Cable Guy sprinkled in.” That’s my favorite part, because I have the sense of humor of a 12-year-old boy. He meant that I have a little Walter in me in that I like hard news coverage, but I also have a fair amount of Oprah in me in that I love encouraging female empowerment and encouraging people to live their best lives, as Oprah would say. I’ve never met Oprah, but she helped me by giving me different ways to think about life.
Which interview has meant the most to you?
Judge Judy, one of my idols. I love her no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners ways. You’ve got to get a thick skin if you’re going to survive in this world. That’s how my mom is. That’s how my nana, who is now 100, is.
Who else are you dying to interview?
I’d love to sit down with the pope and with Bashar al-Assad. I’d love to interview Vladimir Putin, which I believe is possible. But domestically, I have never interviewed Hillary Clinton. I hope she’s considering it now. I hope she believes me to be what I say I am—tough but fair. It was very kind of her to go on The View and say that I’m a superb journalist, but what would be even better is if she would sit with me and let me do some journalism with her.
Megyn Kelly Presents, Tuesday, May 17, 8/7c, FOX.