Donald Trump and his Fox News nemesis Megyn Kelly made peace Tuesday in a prime-time interview that strengthened his ties with the conservative television network whose star anchor has drawn attention to his derogatory remarks about women.
In a rare display of contrition, the Republican presidential candidate expressed regret for nasty comments about Kelly that he spread to millions of followers on Twitter. Kelly asked Trump about calling her a “bimbo.”
“Uhh, well, that was a retweet, yeah — did I say that?” Trump asked.
“Many times,” Kelly said.
“Ooooh, OK — excuse me,” Trump said.
The interview in Trump’s Manhattan office captured the 2016 election’s extraordinary merging of politics and celebrity branding.
For Trump, the former reality TV star of “The Apprentice,” it was a chance to try to improve his dismal image among women as he prepares to face Democrat Hillary Clinton in November. A Washington Post-ABC News poll last month found 75% of women viewed Trump unfavorably.
For Kelly, whose feud with Trump has made her more famous than she was when the campaign started, the interview was a ratings magnet for the debut of “Megyn Kelly Presents,” a Barbara Walters-style show on the Fox broadcasting network.
For 11 months, Fox News has often served as a megaphone for Trump’s candidacy. Sean Hannity, Greta Van Susteren, the hosts of “Fox & Friends” and other personalities on the network have given Trump a friendly forum to reach an audience of millions, boosting network ratings along the way.
But Kelly infuriated Trump when she asked him in a debate last August about his history of calling women fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals, along with his remark to a contestant on his game show that it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees.
Amazing that Crooked Hillary can do a hit ad on me concerning women when her husband was the WORST abuser of woman in U.S. political history— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 17, 2016
Trump told Kelly on Tuesday the question was unfair.
“I’m saying to myself, ‘I don’t really blame you, because you’re doing your thing,’ but from my standpoint, I don’t have to like it,” said Trump, who has called Kelly a biased, overrated “lightweight” and “third-rate reporter.”
Asked if he had any regrets about the campaign, Trump said he did, but declined to say what they were. “I could have maybe used different language in a couple of instances, but overall I have to be very happy with the outcome,” he told Kelly.
There’s “nothing wrong with being presidential,” he added, “but if I would not have fought back the way I fought back, I don’t think I would have been successful.”
The day after Kelly challenged him in the August debate, Trump told CNN: “I have no respect for her...You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
That remark, widely taken as referring to menstruation despite Trump’s denials, resurfaced in two TV ads that a pro-Clinton super PAC started airing this week in the battleground states of Ohio, Florida, Nevada and Virginia.
One of the ads features a woman mouthing Trump’s words as he says, in his own voice, that Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever.” Another woman, also mouthing words to Trump’s voice, says that “a person that is flat-chested is very hard to be a 10.” A third embodies Trump saying “you can tell them to go [silence] themselves,” a remark he once made about China.
Trump reacted angrily on Twitter, writing: “The pathetic new hit ad against me misrepresents the final line. ‘You can tell them to go BLANK themselves’ — was about China, NOT WOMEN!”
Trump has been trying to undercut Clinton’s lopsided advantage among women by accusing her of maligning women with whom her husband, former President Bill Clinton, was accused of having extramarital affairs.
After asking Kelly to excuse him for calling her a bimbo, Trump tried to make light of the moment.
“Over your life, Megyn, you’ve been called a lot worse, is that right? Wouldn’t you say?”
“It’s not about me,” Kelly replied. “It’s about the messaging to young girls and other women.”
Trump described the insults in his tweets as “a modern-day form of fighting back.” Asked whether he’d stop that as president, he told Kelly: “I’m going to stop it about you now, because I think I like our relationship right now.”