“I like our relationship right now,” is the creepy, creepy way Donald Trump announced his beef with Megyn Kelly had ended toward the close of the much-hyped interview for that aired Tuesday night. It wasn't a night of earth-shattering revelations, tears or .GIF-worthy moments, but it was something that felt very unstoppable force-meet-immovable object inevitable. Like the insufferable reality TV show couple that was bound to reunite eventually, it was clear that the Fox journalist and the presumptive Republican candidate couldn't possibly keep up the bad blood forever. So, at least during the taping of Megyn Kelly Presents, they played nice.
Their feud was a short one in the grand scheme of things, mutually beneficial in a backwards way that upped Trump's notoriety and Kelly's credibility in the nine months of sub-tweets (minus the sub), vitriol and think-pieces. So, it felt a little anti-climactic to watch the two sit down in a bland conference room and exchange platitudes. Trump confirmed that he lashed out because he felt attacked, wasn't sorry about it and gave no indication that he'd handle it any differently if he was given the chance. Kelly did a whole lot of active listening and didn't press his answers; while it can absolutely be argued that it was the best strategy she could've employed to wring a half-way human response out of the man, it still felt as if she didn't receive anything substantial for her troubles.
But, despite its flaws, the conversation was still extremely telling about the candidate and, more specifically, the way he wants his relationships with journalists — particularly female journalists — to be: gentle and accommodating.
You can't untangle the Kelly/Trump feud from misogyny. From the very beginning, it was a question about Trump's notably problematic relationship with women that kickstarted the feud and, later, the barrage of misogyny directed at his interviewer — suggesting she was on her period and firing off gender-based insults at every turn — all because Kelly dared to do her job. Pair this with Trump's anti-media stance and near-constant tweet storms about Sad! publications being unfair and not treating him nicely whenever they confront him with numbers or his own words. Kelly told Trump that interviews weren't "a cocktail party," but it's clear that's Trump's ideal media situation is just that: non-confrontational, controlled and free from criticism.
And, unfortunately, the primetime interview delivered that more than anything. Kelly didn't confront Trump in the same pointed way she did early on in the cycle: While she did ask him why he called women (including herself) "bimbos," she didn't press further when he turned on the talkshow charm ("Did I say that?") and replied that she'd probably "been called a lot worse."
It was as unapologetic and ridiculous as you'd expect, but it was answer that was — for all intents and purposes — accepted. Instead of elaborating on how that is not an answer or what this sort of behavior says about him as a leader, he got to place a decent amount of blame on retweets and then rehash his Twitter process of dictation by day, manic tiny-fingered typing by night (an election season anecdote built for an SNL skit that I can't wait to stop hearing over and over again) and then the interview moved forward. Once the special ended, he tweeted out appreciation for Kelly, saying "they all lived happily ever after."
While I suppose it's sort of nice that Trump has (at least temporarily) sworn off manically harassing Kelly on Twitter, angrily ranting about her menstrual cycle or otherwise acting like the personification of a Youtube comment section, this ending reveals that there's still no real consequences for Trump. Regardless of his unnamed “regrets,” it's clear that he still feels entitled to his "happily ever after" — to have Kelly (and all other women he encounters) play nice and play on his terms.
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