CNN Panel Criticizes Megyn Kelly’s “Softball” Trump Interview: “She Didn’t Press Him”

From the May 22 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:

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BRIAN STELTER (HOST): This week was supposed to be a triumphant one for Megyn Kelly. Her long-awaited, highly anticipated interview with Donald Trump finally aired on Tuesday. But the primetime special drew a modest 4.8 million viewers. That's actually pretty high by Fox Broadcast network standards these days, but a lot of people in the industry were expecting a far higher number. 


STELTER: Why do you think she was so defensive the next night on her show? I mean, listen, it's a normal on Fox to make this about liberal media bias. It's a tactic that works for the network. But why else do you think she was so defensive about it?

JIM WARREN: Well it’s kind of interesting isn’t it? I mean, Mary would know better that I, but I certainly can’t recall the people she aspires to be, like Barbara Walters, Oprah Winfrey, being so sensitive, even allergic to criticism. You just can't subsume the news cycle to your own professional career goals. You can't be in the heat of a campaign in some ways, as you alluded to, sort of central to some of the issues of the campaign, and then say you’re going to do some soft-focus interview. This is not like Edward R. Murrow doing celebrity interviews with, like, Marilyn Monroe. The context is very different, sort of more akin to maybe the Pentagon correspondent bashing Donald Rumsfeld for conduct of the Iraq War, then getting the interview and asking him only about his weekends in Toas, New Mexico, and horseback riding there. Or, I think, perhaps more relevant, as I mentioned, I think it's very much akin to George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin’s relationship in the ‘70s. Steinbrenner, the Yankees manager, fired Martin five times and after the first time, lo and behold, they appeared on a Miller Lite commercial together. So their animus was transformed into a mutual commercial benefit. That's what strikes me as comparable here. 

STELTER: Mary, if you agree, why do you think that is? You thought there was a missed opportunity in this interview, that there were a lot of soft questions. And that was Kelly's intent, right? She said from the beginning she was going to make this about Trump the person, not Trump the politician. But what did you think was missing, and why? 

MARY MCNAMARA: Well, I mean, she touted this interview as nothing is off the table, and yet when the interview occurred, it felt like everything was off the table. She didn’t talk to him -- She had this incredibly rare opportunity where she came out of those debates perceived as this very tough, willing to ask really hard questions, and so I think people anticipated that same level of toughness, and instead we got, you know, very softball. When did you realize you were going to be president? Have you ever been wounded? And even when she was addressing the issue of the event that occurred -- and people call it a feud, it was not a feud --

STELTER: No, it was one-sided.

MCNAMARA: -- because that assumes like, sort of an equality between the two people. It was very one sided. She was doing her job as a moderator. She asked a very sensible question that's very important about how a presidential candidate has referred to women in the past, and he absolutely smeared her. He went out of his way to try to get people to boycott her show. He retweeted hateful tweets about her, which is pretty much the same as tweeting that. So when he got into, “Oh well I never called you anything,” and she did call him on, you did retweet tweets about me being a bimbo and he said, “Well that's not the worst thing you've been called,” and you're like, OK that's the level that a presidential candidate is -- I'm not going to retweet things in which you're being called profane names? But she didn't press him on that. She seemed very interested -- 

STELTER: Let me be a little bit of a -- I’m  sorry go ahead. I was going to say, let me be a little bit of a practical, or maybe a little bit of a cynic here. Do you think she was going relatively easy this time in order to get another interview later, which will be tougher, which will be more confrontational?

MCNAMARA: Absolutely. I think this was a question of she wanted to make sure that she had access to him in the future because, of course, he boycotted the -- when she was proposed as a moderator for a second time, he was going to boycott. So it’s like she wanted to make sure. She’s the one who reached out to him. She's the one who smoothed over what -- and it wasn't a feud, but she smoothed over the situation, and he made a big deal about how, oh, that was so big of you because I would never reach out like that, and she didn't press him on that. She didn't press him on the fact that someone who wants to be the president is not comfortable with diplomacy, which is a real problem.


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