Donald Trump chose to sit out Thursday night's GOP debate in Des Moines, Iowa, to avoid what he claimed was unfair treatment from Fox News and anchor Megyn Kelly. After Kelly explicitly asked him about his past sexist comments in the last presidential debate she moderated, Trump began a full-on feud with the journalist. The Republican front-runner was heavily criticized for avoiding the debate because of the moderator, but Trump was right to be scared of Kelly — she asked substantive, probing questions throughout the debate and didn't let candidates slide by without a real answer or take over control of the show.
If Trump didn't like Kelly's questions in the first GOP debate in August, he certainly wouldn't have enjoyed the ones lobbed to his opponents Thursday. Right off the bat, she asked Ted Cruz about Trump not attending the debate and flip-flopping on his attitude toward Trump, choosing to address "the elephant not in the room." Where many moderators would have simply asked Cruz about Trump's absence, Kelly took it a step further. "You praised Mr. Trump as somebody who you thought was an effective voice against the Washington cartel. You said you were glad that he was running as a Republican," Kelly said to Cruz. "But when he started to criticize you, your message changed, and you suddenly started to portray him as the voice of the Washington cartel, and suggested he would do the Democrats' bidding. Which is it?"
Later on, Kelly took on Marco Rubio's altered stance on immigration, playing video clips of him saying he opposed legalization and citizenship for illegal immigrants during his 2010 Senate campaign. Without hesitation, Kelly asked the senator: "Within two years of getting elected you were co-sponsoring legislation to create a path to citizenship, in your words, amnesty. Haven't you already proven that you cannot be trusted on this issue?"
The moderator also kept strong control over the schedule, not allowing candidates to speak whenever they pleased or interrupt her. When John Kasich somewhat aggressively tried to interject on a foreign policy discussion as Kelly was changing the subject to domestic terrorism, she didn't concede. Even though Kasich kept trying to interject, Kelly continued on with her planned segue and asserted her power over the whole event. The Ohio governor finally said: "I've always listened to you, Megyn. Go ahead." That's right Kasich, Kelly is in charge.
Since it seemed Trump wanted to avoid Kelly's tough probes into his past, his policy plans, and his moral compass, it's probably for the best that he didn't make an appearance — Kelly definitely wouldn't have taken it easy on him. In his absence, she was able to get his opponents talking about substantive issues that voters needed to hear about.