Megyn Kelly Interview: America’s Great Divide | FRONTLINE


So it’s 2004, and you are
just starting at Fox, and this
young guy from Illinois gives a
speech in Boston and promises that his biography
is a panacea for healing what
was already a divided America. Tell me what your thoughts were
when you heard the Obama
promise. That he was a star; that we
hadn’t seen a politician like
that before, not in recent
history and that the sky was the limit
for him. I mean, just the way he spoke
was so compelling and so
dynamic and so magnetizing. You know, you couldn’t take
your eyes off the screen. And he seemed so earnest. You know, it was like the Jed
Bartlet character [from The
West Wing], like he’s going to
tell it like it is, and, you know, you can believe
in what he says, and he doesn’t
seem to be so wrapped up in
this partisan divide. And so when he later ran for
president and said he was going
to be the one who was going to
try to heal that wound, he had credibility. And then Washington did to him
what it does to everyone, and
the wound only festered. What was the promise? You know, the whole “There is
no red-state America; there is
no blue-state America. You know, there’s only the
United States of America.” And as a citizen, you think,
yes, that’s actually how I live
my life, right? Most people aren’t
hyperpartisan. They hang out with Democrats
and Republicans, and they
barely talk about politics. They go out to dinner. They talk about their kids;
they talk about their jobs;
they talk about their spouses. And so that resonated, I think,
with a lot of people. But, you know, it’s the nature
of the job that if you’re going
to become president of the
United States, you’re going to be
hyperpolitical, and your
decisions get made in that
vacuum. And, you know, maybe it was too
ambitious; it was too lofty for
him to think he could be the
one to come in and change it. But I do think he admitted,
after the end of his eight
years, that it was one of his
greatest failures and regrets. … Running against him in 2008
is not so much John McCain as
this woman named Sarah Palin. Your thoughts about Palin and
who she represented and what
that was going on out in
America did she tap into to become the Sarah
Palin that we still talk about
after all these years? You know, that version of
Sarah Palin was electrifying. I will never forget. We went down to the Democratic
National Convention, and it was
like, whoa—you know, Invesco Field
and the Greek columns, and
people were “ahhhh” over Obama. And you think, this—I mean,
this is it. And then you go to the GOP
convention, which was in St.
Paul/Minneapolis, up in that
area, Minnesota. And McCain, great. He was interesting; he was
fine. He’s a war hero. Fine. Sarah Palin came out and
brought the house down. She electrified that GOP base
like no one I had ever seen. And you recall, that was one of
the times where the prompter
failed, and she just ad-libbed
it. And she had the “lipstick on a
pig” line. And people loved it. She was almost a pre-Trump in
that way, in the way that she
just sort of had this
matter-of-fact way of speaking, sort of folksy. She wasn’t too highbrow. She never had the glasses at
the end of the nose looking at
you. And so real Americans, you
know, regular folks, could
relate to her. And so that’s how we sort of
got to know her, as this
electrifying figure who was
going to stand up for
Republican, conservative
ideals. She had had this really feisty
debate with her
then-gubernatorial challenger
in Alaska over abortion, and she stood up for the
pro-life movement. And Republicans weren’t used to
seeing that, you know, from
their candidates. They usually just tried to get
out of bounds when abortion
came up. So she was pretty unabashed
about standing up for their
ideals, and they loved her. And when you started to see,
you know, the shine come off of
that car was the Katie Couric
interview. But most Republicans, who’d
already disliked the media,
blamed Katie for that. Most Republicans looked at that
and said, “She was set up; that
was a gotcha question,” and
stood by Palin. And it just made them hate the
media more. Over time, as the camera
usually does, it brings out the
truth of somebody who’s before
it repeatedly. And I think, you know, they got
to know Palin a little bit more
as perhaps not the savior of
the GOP as they once hoped. Do you think Donald Trump
watched that, watched Palin’s
rise, watched how it worked
with her? Is he capable of watching
something like that and saying,
“I’m filing that away; there’s pluses and minuses here
that I want to copy”? I don’t think so. I think Trump is Trump. He doesn’t need a model. He is
who he is, you know. P.T. Barnum runs the circus the
way he sees fit, and he doesn’t
need to look at somebody else
for a model. I do think, or at least I’ve
heard, that Trump read Rick
Santorum’s book on how to
appeal to the blue-collar workers of America and to focus
on manufacturing and bringing
back manufacturing to America,
and working-class jobs. And, you know, Rick Santorum
will tell you that Trump stole
that from him. And you recall, Rick Santorum
did very well in the contest in
which [Mitt] Romney wound up
becoming the nominee. But I think that was smart of
Trump, to sort of take that and
buck traditional Republican
dogma when it came to populism and globalism, and
that he was going to bring
trade back, and that he was
going to fight these trade
wars, and he was going to fight
illegal immigration in a way
that the Romneys and the Paul
Ryans of the world were not
promising. And that was a direct appeal to
that voting bloc that did wind
up putting him in office. When you were covering and
watching all of this—we’re now
back in Palin and Obama— how important was Obama’s
election to the rise of Fox
News? You were there for the whole
ride. How much do you give to the
idea that Fox News needed Obama
in some ways to be the
president of the United States? … When I joined Fox in 2004,
we were already number one. And those were some lean years
for good news on the right half
of the country, or for the
country in general, frankly. It was the Iraq War. It was
awful over there. In 2006, Iraq was about as bad
as it got. … You know, the journalists who
went over there were really
risking their lives, and there was no good news
coming out of Iraq. And this was obviously a George
W. Bush war. So you could make the case that
that should have been the low
point for Fox News, but they
were still number one. They were number one in 2006,
in 2004, in 2005. Obama comes in, and people
wondered, you know, will Sean
Hannity get any viewers during
a Barack Obama presidency? And the answer was, yes, he
would. He would get a lot of
viewers. I was anchoring in the
beginning of the day and the
midday for most of that. I didn’t move to the primetime
until 2013, which was an
interesting time, because Obama had found his
swagger by 2013 and was sort of
figuring out how the whole
thing worked. So there was plenty to cover. But I think, look, Fox News has
cornered the market on half of
the country’s television
viewers. And so Republican in the White
House, Democrat in the White
House, that half of the country is
going to tune into Fox News. One of the people who’s on
Fox News at the time,
occasionally, Fox and Friends
on Mondays, was Donald Trump. Why was Trump on Fox and
Friends? My understanding was that
[Roger] Ailes liked him, that
Ailes and Trump had a good
relationship. Ailes liked Trump, thought he
was an entertaining figure. Trump and [Bill] O’Reilly had a
good relationship. So he was
friendly. You know, Trump was always a
master of the media and knew
enough to keep himself fairly
ubiquitous on television, whether it was The Apprentice
or news appearances on CNN, on
Fox News. He got a regular gig with Fox
and Friends. So even back then, he was
media-savvy. And then as now, the man made
for compelling television. You can say what you want about
Trump; that he’s boring on
television is not one of the
things. … So did you have any sense
of political ambition back in
those days? Of his? Yeah. No. He used to sabre-rattle a
little about it. You know, “I’m smarter than
these guys, and I can do a
better job.” But I don’t think anybody took
Trump seriously as a future
politician back then. So by the end of the Obama
administration—so Obama, you’ve
already said it, which is he
goes out looking for a base. He’s trying for reelection. He’s got the executive orders. He basically stands up and, you
know, gives the finger to
Washington and says, “I’m going
forward with my stuff.” When he finishes his term, a
lot of people we’ve talked to
here say the country was in
much worse shape in terms of
its division, in terms of disruption, than it
had been before Obama came
along. How much of that do you
attribute to Obama, and what is
it that he did or didn’t do? Well, look, I mean, Barack
Obama versus Donald Trump is an
interesting question, right, because Obama, I think, by most
people’s measure, is a good man
with policies that led to
mediocre success and that have largely been
reversed. Trump, I don’t know that you
could make such a strong
argument that the man is a
perfect character, right? I think he might even admit
that if he were sitting here. But his policies on paper have
largely done a lot of good for
the country in the eyes of
Republicans, right? They like lower taxes; they
like less regulation. I could
go on. But the thing about Obama was,
he was divisive in his own way. The biggest, the most divisive
thing he did was Obamacare. And I was on Fox News during
that time, for the rise for the
Tea Party. And the Tea Party, now—now
people would suggest the Tea
Party was all about race. It had very little to do with
race when it was first popping
up. They wanted smaller government,
and they wanted less taxation,
and they wanted fiscal
responsibility. And then Obamacare got shoved
down our throats, without
majority support in the
country, which was a huge
thing. And people were angry.
Republicans were angry. And Obama was too cavalier
about it…. [Senate Majority Leader] Harry
Reid, with Obama’s blessing,
changed the procedural rules in
the Senate to shove it down the throat of
the American people, something
that affects one-sixth of the
U.S. economy. And you had elderly people
whose health care is everything
to them, standing out on the
streets, spitting mad, over the fear
that they would lose their
health care or their doctor. And what did we have? We had a relatively newly
elected leader saying: “If you
like your plan, you can keep
your plan. If you like your doctor, you
can keep your doctor.” And that was not true. And it turned out Obama knew it
was not true. So I’m loath to use the word
“lie,” but that was one, and he
did it for political purposes. He wanted that bill to pass. He wanted to shove it through,
and he got it through. And I don’t think Republicans
have ever forgiven him for it. It was the most divisive thing
he did. And when people talk about
Trump’s—look, Trump does not
have an adult relationship with
the truth. That’s just a fact. But I think Republicans who
love him are quick to forgive
him, because they see his lies
as “I got an A instead of a C,” you know, puffery about himself
or how well he’s doing or
someone he loves is doing. Obama lied to them about
something that struck at the
very heart of their lives,
their health care, their relationship with their
doctor. It’s as if he said, “You’re not
going to get cancer,” and then
they did. They’ll hold that one against
you much more so than you lying
about, you know, how tall you
are or how great you are. So I think that was hugely
divisive. And then his cavalier attitude. There was the infamous scene
where he sat across from John
McCain and said, you know,
“Elections have consequences,
John.” And yes, he was dismissive of
McCain, who people have
generally respected. But he was being dismissive of
half the country, whose
concerns McCain was trying to
raise, right? And then the executive orders. He couldn’t get anything
through Congress, true. But the congresspeople
represent the American public,
and the reason they wouldn’t
vote for Obama’s policies is they didn’t want them. And so instead of working to
compromise and find a way that
they could reach agreement,
what did Obama do? “I’ll take out my pen and my
phone.” That’s what he kept saying:
“I’ll take out my pen and my
phone, and I’m going to do an
end around Congress,” meaning, “You people, I’m going to do an
end around you, the American
public that doesn’t like me or
want this.” And those people were mad. … He went on camera 23 times
and said, “I’m all out of
executive actions I can do on
immigration reform. I’m not a king. I’m sorry, but I’m out,” and
then, under pressure, pushed
through DACA [Deferred Action
for Childhood Arrivals], without the general support of
the public, again. You know, the Democrats wanted
it, but the other half of the
country didn’t. And that’s fine. The Democrats said, “Victory!,”
but the Republicans were
unhappy. And especially that Trump base
that felt their jobs might be
in danger and that they were
the forgotten middle and that they didn’t think
Obama cared about them. There was a slow boil going
with that group of would-be
voters. And boy, they had their say in
November of 2016. You know, it’s so
interesting, too, that he could
pass—the only president in
history, I think, who managed to pass a major
piece of legislation like
Social Security, Medicare,
Medicaid, with no Republican
votes, without any votes from the
other side. Right. The implications of that? He never had buy-in, and
that’s why it got undone, bit
by bit. And it never had support, you
know. And that’s why his executive
actions on immigration have
been undone. What you can do with your pen
and your phone, you can undo
with the next president’s pen
and the phone. Yeah. And look, let’s take one of
the most relevant examples:
judges. Harry Reid, with—Harry Reid,
with Barack Obama’s blessing,
got rid of the filibuster for
the lower-court judges. And Mitch McConnell stood out
there on the Senate floor and
said, “You may rue the day you did
this, because you won’t always
have control of this chamber.” And I, as someone who practiced
law for 10 years, I covered the high court for
three years, I’ve argued before
courts of appeal throughout the
nation many times, knew exactly what he meant and
knew the danger of what was
happening. The filibuster is the
last-ditch effort to stop a
judge you think is truly
partisan and unfit for making
it onto the bench. And Harry Reid got rid of that. So he took a weapon away from
Republicans in the moment, and sure enough, when the
Republicans came into power in
that Senate, what did they do? They got rid of it for Supreme
Court nominees. You could see it. The writing
was on the wall! But what has that done for
Trump? His greatest legacy with most
Republican voters will be what
he’s done on the federal bench,
his legacy with the judges. And that’s a divisive issue,
too, for Democrats and
Republicans. Anyway, the seeds of the unrest
and the frustration were
planted throughout Obama’s
administration. And I know people love the guy. But what he actually did, in
many circumstances, only
produced anger. And that anger manifested when
the next election rolled around. … How much did race play in
his failure, in the anger of
the Tea Party, in the anger of
the society? I mean, his guys, Ben Rhodes
and others, are out there
regularly, including talking to
us, saying: “It was really
race. There was really racism that
was going on. Obama didn’t know it, didn’t
want to acknowledge it, didn’t
want to deal with it himself,
didn’t handle it right, but that it was really at the
heart—the division from the
Obama administration was about
race.” Well, look, there’s no
question that there’s racism in
this country and that some people objected
to Barack Obama on the basis of
his skin color. We haven’t solved that problem
in America. But it is the same America that
put him into office, right? So there was a—there were
enough people in this country
for whom his race was either a
great thing or a non-factor that he became the president of
the United States. So I think, you know, you can’t
use that as a crutch to explain
all the criticism and backlash
to Obama. And I think he would tell you
that, right? I think if you listen to Barack
Obama talk about race, he’s
always very measured, very
measured. But I think Obama, in a way,
did for race what sort of the
#MeToo movement is doing for
women. There’s this sort of explosion
of people saying, “What? Wait,
what?,” and then a massive
change. So I think maybe there was some
core that said: “We don’t like
him. You know, we don’t like what he
stands for. We don’t want him talking about
Trayvon Martin, you know. We don’t—no. Right. No.” And then maybe that bubbles up
in the next election. They say: “We’re going for
the—we’re going for Trump, you
know. He says things that we
like.” But I think eventually, it
evens out. Like it’s a reckoning that
needs to happen, in the same
way that the #MeToo movement
explodes, and all these women come out
and say, “No, this can’t
happen; this happened to me;
this happened to me,” and men sort of have like this,
“Oh, my God, what’s going on?” But then it settles, hopefully
to a better place. And I kind of see the same
thing happening with Obama when
it comes to race. You know, he came out. He didn’t make a big thing out
of his race, but others did. And if some people objected to
it, you know, my hope was that
that thing that boils up, and
maybe it empowers other people of color in a way
that may grow uncomfortable for
white people, but then it
settles. It settles to a better place
when all is said and done. When Trump comes down that
escalator, tell me the story of
what you’re thinking what his
chances are, what it means for the country,
what it means for the 17 people
running for the presidency at
the time. Take me there. I mean, Trump is a showman,
and that ride down the
escalator with Melania [Trump]
in the white dress, I mean, you just—you enjoyed
watching the show. Now, it didn’t mean anybody was
necessarily going to vote for
the guy. But as a media person, this is
TV gold, right? Who would not watch this? He’s interesting, and he’s
dynamic, and he knows how to
work the cameras, and he’s been the number one
show on NBC for all these years
for a reason. But you didn’t start thinking
about him as a real candidate
at that point. It took a while, right? You thought, he’s just out
there to improve his brand,
take some shots at Obama, who
wasn’t very kind to him, right? But he’s not really expecting
to become the president of the
United States. I think it took a while before
any of us realized, no,
this—this is real. And sure enough, you know, it
was. But that day, it was just
the—it was just a spectator
sport, you know, of “Look at
him. What’s he doing now?” And then he comes out there and
says all that thing about, you
know, “They’re not sending
their best people.” And you’re like, “What?” Now we’re kind of used to Trump
talking like that, right? But in the beginning, you’re
like: “Oh, my God, what did you
just say? This is crazy. What are people going to say in
response to this?” That was still the phase of the
Trump experience where we were
all like: “Oh, this is—this is
it. Oh, no.” And then there would be so many
more of those, like: “Oh, this
is it. Oh, no,” right? … What chance did you give
him, really, at that time? Very little. I didn’t think he was serious
about it, so I wasn’t really
counting him in as a serious
candidate for a while. I mean, for me, I was looking
at it more from a journalistic
standpoint. What do we do with this guy? Because he’s incredibly
compelling on camera. And every time we’d pop him up
on the screen, our numbers go
like this. And yet we have a journalistic
responsibility not to pop him
up on the screen every time he
speaks, unless we’re going to do that
for Gov. Scott Walker, and God
knows we’re not going to do
that for Gov. Scott Walker,
right? So you’ve got to be fair to
everybody—or Hillary Clinton
for that matter. So we—my executive producer and
I had long talks about what’s
fair as opposed to just what
rates. And we, on our show, The Kelly
File, were very careful about
not just sort of pumping the
Trump machine, which would pay dividends and
still does. I mean, Trump has been a huge
boon to cable news, huge boon.
All news. But especially CNN, in lots
of ways, which shows the empty
podium during the day, waiting— they’re waiting for Trump to
come out, right? Of course. And not just CNN. MSNBC, I mean, the morning show
over there now hates Trump’s
guts, and every day they’re out
there attacking him. But they were part of the
reason he became the Republican
nominee. You know, Joe Scarborough and
Mika [Brzezinksi], they loved
Trump; they promoted Trump
every day. I remember watching it,
thinking, wow, what is it about
Trump that got them on board so
early? What was it about him? I mean, he liked them, and he
went on their show, so I really
don’t know. They were down in Mar-a-Lago
and so on. Trump was very good at
cultivating relationships. And trust me, he tried to
cultivate a relationship with
me, too, but I was a
journalist, and I understood I needed to
keep him at arm’s length, like
you do all the candidates. You can be cordial; you can be
nice; you can be friendly. But it is, at its heart, an
adversarial relationship, you
know, that of a politician and
a reporter. But yeah, of course he boosted
their ratings. He boosted CNN’s
ratings. I mean, the Today Show used to
take phoners from Trump once a
week, all right? It wasn’t just Fox and Friends
putting him on back when he was
on The Apprentice. The Today Show was allowing a
presidential candidate to do a
phoner once a week. Why? Because he rates. That’s why. It’s mercenary. And look, you could make the
argument: “Oh, well, it’s a
journalistic principle. He’s—he’s the Republican
front-runner.” Or eventually he was the
Republican nominee. It’s completely unfair. He could be sitting there with
notes, and now we know, from
reporting that’s come out, he
was. He was sitting there with
notes. That’s not OK. You know, it’s not the worst
fraud I’ve ever heard of in my
life, but as a journalist, you’re responsible for keeping
the playing field fair, and
that—that’s not doing that. … When we talked to [Steve]
Bannon, he sort of gave us the
narrative through what they
were thinking, between Breitbart and Trump and
Steve Miller. And they launched a sort of
three-pronged war. And the first level of the war
was at Fox itself. He wanted to—they wanted to win
Fox over. They wanted Trump— He Bannon or he Trump? He Bannon and Trump. They decided that they needed
Fox to be Trumpvision, Trump
TV, and they were going to do what
they could to pull it over, to
pull Ailes over. According to Bannon, Ailes and
Rupert [Murdoch] were still
members of the Republican
establishment and not really ready to go to
Trump in any way. … So let’s start with the war on
Fox. Manifestation of that in any
way obvious to you as you’re
reporting on Trump and what was
happening over there? I mean, look, I can’t speak
to what was in Trump’s head. I wasn’t privy to that. I can only speak to my own
experience, you know, inside of
Fox and dealing with Ailes. And I know that Roger
definitely felt that he had to
keep that sort of Breitbart
wing of the viewership onboard; that they were at risk thanks
to Trump’s attacks on me and
Fox in the wake of that debate. And people forget, it wasn’t
just me. He was mad at Fox. He was mad
at Bret [Baier]. He wasn’t a
big fan of [Chris] Wallace. He was mad at all of us over
that debate, although the
attacks on me continued much
longer. So Roger was worried about
keeping that wing of the
viewership onboard with Fox. Why? How important? It was important. And Roger
fought every battle as though
it was the biggest. You know, he saw any competitor
rising up against Fox, he would
do his level best to squash
them. He did whatever he could to
keep talent from signing at
another channel, because he
didn’t want the competitive
threat, right? Even if he—even if he didn’t
really love that talent, he
just didn’t want to lose
anybody, because he didn’t want any Fox
person drawing viewers away to
another channel. So he definitely wasn’t going
to lose 30% of the viewers, as
this man, who by August of 2015 we knew was the likely
Republican nominee, or at least
he was the front-runner for
that time. He didn’t want that guy to be
driving a division between
Roger and the viewers. But Roger was tough. He was no
pushover. So—and I think Roger felt he
had more power within the
Republican Party and had done more for America
than Donald Trump ever had. And so he wasn’t ready to just
lie down for Trump. He was mad at Trump, too, for
the way he was speaking about
Fox. So I think there was some
friction between them in the
beginning. And you know, Trump would
continue to grow in power, and
I think Ailes would get a
little bit more deferential to
him. So take me to the night. Take me to the debate. Take me
to your question. Take me to whether you were
prepared for his response. Just give us the blow-by-blow,
if you don’t mind. Well, I had my research
assistant research all the
candidates who were going to be
on stage that night and pull anything interesting
or controversial about them,
right? And everybody had a binder like
this. And Trump had a binder like
this, right? But if you looked through his
binder, and I read every page,
there was one theme that
started to come through. And at that point in Trump’s
life it was the way he had
spoken toward and behaved
toward women. You know, his defense is, “I’m
sort of a jerk to everybody.” And I understand that. I actually understand that
defense, because, if you look
at Trump’s full record, he
picks on guys, and he picks on
gals. But there’s a certain language
that he’s used about women for
the vast majority of his life. And my job as the anchor was
not to go out there and be
Helen of Troy. My job was to say, “This is
what the Democrats are going to
use against you, and how are
you going to fight it?” And that is how I phrased the
question to him; that Hillary
Clinton is likely to be the
Democratic nominee, and this is what she’s going to
get you with. How are you going to answer the
charge? It’s the same thing. I mean, like, you didn’t have
to try too hard to figure out
that’s what they were going to
come at him with. It’s like, you’re going
to—you’re going to hang
“binders full of women” around
Romney’s neck? You have so much more
ammunition against this guy,
and you love to do this. We saw the Democrats do it a
couple years earlier. So for me, it was kind of a
no-brainer that that was the
question for Trump. And I had A-plus-level
questions for every guy on that
stage that night. I mean, it was—it was tough,
tough stuff, because the
opening round of questions was
on electability. That’s what we were asking them
about. Like, can you win the
Republican nomination if you’re
too much of a squish, let’s
say, on some favorite
Republican issue? Right. And if you manage to get
past, can you win the general
if you’re too hard-line? You know, I went after Walker
hard on abortion. I went after [Marco] Rubio on
abortion, too. I basically asked Ben Carson if
he was an idiot because of all
the things he had said that
were factually inaccurate. No one complained. They knew. This is a
presidential debate. It’s, you know, you’ve got your
brass knuckles on. Let’s go. Nobody complained except one
guy. … And so when I asked him that
question, the first thing that
happened was he stopped and
said, “Only Rosie O’Donnell.” And I remember thinking he knew
it was coming. Like he had that—my instinct
was he had that sixth sense,
you know, like he knew I was going to hit
him on something, and he
guessed it would be women, and
he got some line worked up. Fine. We forged forward. The convention center was
laughing. I don’t judge the viewers.
They’re allowed to laugh and
have a moment of levity if they
want. It’s not for me to judge. But I was going to get through
the rest of my question. And then he did what we’ve seen
him do so many times, what we almost heard him do on
that call with the Ukrainian
leader, which was: “I’ve been
very nice to you, right? I’ve been very nice to you.
Maybe I won’t be.” And that’s Trump in a nutshell. He is nice to you, and he
expects you to be nice to him. If you’re nice to Trump, he is
nice to you. And I wasn’t trying to be
unkind to Trump in that moment. I was just doing my job as a
reporter. But the way Trump sees media,
the way he sees life, is all,
they like me, or they don’t
like me. Zero sum. And in that moment, I got
moved from the “She likes me”
category into the “She doesn’t
like me.” And I do believe—I believe that
night the anger was real. His anger at me was real that
night. I have doubts about whether the
nine-month campaign was fueled
by authentic anger as opposed
to something else. And he doesn’t leave it
there, of course. He raises it
again. And Bannon tells us the story
that they, too, that Breitbart
decided to go after you. What’s
the point? … They tried to destroy me. Trump, however, I think Trump
was running a much more massive
campaign. … I think Trump recognized that
it was a good storyline, and he
kept fuel going under that
fire, because he thought it would
help him distract from whatever
news of the day he wanted to
distract from. He knew some portion of his
audience loved to see him
challenging, you know, a
powerful woman, never mind a
woman at Fox. And so he accurately deduced
that this would drive his
numbers up with some segment of
his base. … I don’t think Trump is a
truly bad man. I think he’s a savvy politician
who knows what to say and what
to do to get elected. So anyway, yes, it was really
difficult. And you know, that’s why I
don’t like it when people make
light of the nine months. You know, Maureen Dowd had a
column in which she referred to
me as “Trump’s chew toy.” And I love Maureen, but I
resented the column, because my
life was blown up for nine
months. It was—it was scary at times.
And Breitbart kept lighting the
fire over and over. And you know, I had, and have,
three young kids, really young
kids. And the security threats were
escalating. And we were doing everything in
our power to convey to them
that they needed to stop. It was—it was one debate
question, just one debate
question, and he handled it
fine. You know, he did. So get off of it. They couldn’t have cared less. Presumably a lot of those
threats are coming from Fox
viewers? I don’t know about that. I
don’t know. The Fox viewers were pretty
awesome, I have to say. During the whole experience, my
numbers never went down. I never lost viewers. In fact,
I went up. So I think the core Fox
audience, they—they liked me;
they didn’t like Trump’s
attacks on me. A lot of them didn’t like my
question, which was OK. That’s
all right. But they knew me. They knew I
was fair. I was fair to Trump, and I was
fair to the other Republicans. And I was not somebody who was
out to get Trump or any of
these guys, right? I’m not for either side. I’m
for truth. I think it was a different
core. I think it was the Breitbart
core that caused the trouble
for me. Access Hollywood is October.
… Your thoughts? When that happened? Yeah. It was stunning. I mean, it was stunning just to
hear, you know, a major-party
nominee talk that way about any
group, never mind my own,
right?—women. It was jarring. It was very
jarring. I don’t know. For me personally, it was very
jarring, and it was on the heels of a
lot of misogyny that had
unfolded in the country over
the past year, not just about
me, but, you know, there’s no
question, having a female
nominee on the other side
brought a lot of that out, a
lot of that out. Yeah. And I thought that was
probably it for Trump. You know, Bill Bennett used to
come on my show. He was an Education secretary
under Reagan, really
thoughtful, smart guy. He sort of begrudgingly loved
Trump. You know, he didn’t love a lot
of the things he said and did,
but thought he’s way better
than Hillary, and I’m going
with him. And I remember, he came on my
show that night and said: “What
a shame. You know, it’s over
for him. What a shame.” So I—that guy knows more about
politics than I do, and I
thought, yeah, he’s probably
right. And I do think Trump’s
willingness to fight back, that
debate that followed, and what he did with the Bill
Clinton accusers changed
everything. How? Because it reminded all of us
that the woman who would go
into office, if he lost, was no
saint either— not Hillary herself
necessarily, but her husband,
and with her enabling. Really, it must be said. The accusation, the case being
made by Trump was, “Yes, I said
some nasty things about women.” And that was the one time he
did apologize. “But if you vote for Hillary,
and she gets back into that
White House with him, you’re going to have a guy
who’s actually paid $850,000 to
a woman who accused him of
sexual assault to settle the
case; a guy who lied under oath about
his relationship with a young
White House intern; a guy who was accused by
Juanita Broaddrick of rape; a guy who was accused by
Kathleen Willey of sexual
harassment, you know, in his
office.” And he made a powerful case. You know, I think people forget
that, while Trump has had a
very colorful history with
women that he acknowledges, OK, forget the accusations
against him, but his—you know,
his cheating on his first wife
and the stuff with Marla
[Maples] and so on and so forth, all the
headlines in the New York Post
and the Daily News and so on, Bill Clinton has got what many
see as a dangerous history with
women. And a lot of the young people
today don’t know anything about
it. They didn’t live through it. They didn’t sit there and read
The Starr Report in the Barnes
& Noble like I did when I was
in my 20s when that came out. And so I do think, even though
it felt dirty, and you felt
kind of gross when you watched
the whole thing unfold, it was effective what he did. … So Trump is now running. And by the end of all of that,
right before the election, what are the results in terms
of the division in this society
by the way you think about it? I mean, look, I said this
with Kelly Ripa the day after
the election. There was a huge body of the
American people that felt
ignored, overlooked and uncared for at all by
anyone in Washington for
decades. And finally they felt they’d
been heard. And that is a good thing for
America. You know, the white working
class in Appalachia, in these
states Hillary completely blew
off or assumed she’d win, you know, from Wisconsin to
Michigan to Pennsylvania, felt heard and like they
finally had somebody in there
who would look out for them. And I think if Barack Obama
were sitting here, he would
admit to you that this is one
group he failed to consider. I know this, because I know
toward the end of his term, I
was in contact with the White
House about potentially doing a town
hall with Obama for that group
that was meant to outreach to
that group, which he felt he had done an
insufficient job for. And by that point, it was too
late for him. They had already
felt forgotten. And with Trump, they don’t feel
forgotten. In fact, it’s not just Obama
and the Democrats; it’s the
Republicans and the elites,
right? Like these folks were sick of
the Mitt Romney-type
Republicans lecturing them
about how immigration is a good
thing, right? Like these guys, they didn’t
necessarily feel that way. They didn’t necessarily feel
that way when they saw their
jobs slipping away in
manufacturing and these
factories and so on, and they felt under threat
themselves. Trump gave a voice to that and
promised them that he would
look out for them. And not only that, Trump
sounded like them. … Obama ate arugula; Trump
champions Big Macs, you know. Obama changed his accent
depending on what part of the
country he went to. So did Hillary. Trump is Trump, no matter where
he goes. He’s got the skin; he’s got the
crazy hair; he’s Trump. There was an authenticity to
him that I think they connected
with. He would drop an F-bomb. He said the p-word on the air
about Ted Cruz one time. I was in Iowa, like: “Oh, my
God. What did he just say that
rhymes with ‘wussy’?” I mean, this happened, right? And I think there’s a swath of
the American population that,
look, it’s not like they love
vulgarity, but they just loved what they
felt was his authenticity and
his willingness to throw a
punch, which they felt was on
their behalf. And I still think it’s good for
those people and for the
country overall to have them
feel heard and attended to. That night when he wins,
we’ve used this stock footage
of you and Bret on the set about a half a dozen
times in films, saying: “This
is it. The blue wall is breached. Here we go,” right? Yeah. How were you feeling? I was stunned like everybody
else. I mean, I had spoken with
Hannity earlier that day, and he couldn’t see how Trump
was going to get past the
magical number in the electoral
college. And Hannity was my best gauge,
right? He was the one who was talking
to Trump more than anybody. Yeah. What did I know? I believed Hannity. You know, I believed the
pollsters. And so I—the first moment I saw
it coming was when Chris
Wallace was on the set that
night and said, “I think we’re all coming to
the realization that Donald
Trump might be the next
president of the United
States.” And you had that moment where
you were like, you know what? He really might. He might
actually do it. And for me, it was just—I mean,
it was a shocking, exciting
political story. I know that others felt
devastated or elated. I’m not a political person, and
I never have been. So for me, it was more of a
media story. Like, whoa, everyone got this
wrong. I mean, 1% of the pollsters and
the prognosticators called
this, and everyone else was
wrong, and this is a huge story. And the stakes for America,
the victory? What were you thinking the next
day and the day after that and
as you began to report the
story? I just don’t buy into this
catastrophic, like, “the nation
will never be the same,” you
know? We’ll be fine. We’ll be fine. You know, Trump is a bull in a
china shop for sure, but a lot
of that china needed to be
broken. So let’s remember who we are,
right? We’re Americans. We’ve been through a lot. We can survive any—any
president, any tumult. We’ve been through a civil war,
and we made it through OK. I just—I’m a little tired of
the vapors everyone tries to
give us over everything Trump
does. The media, it’s sickening what
they’ve done. We’re fine, right? Trump broke some things. They needed to be broken. He broke some other things that
were quite lovely. Maybe we’ll rebuild them. You know, the populace will
decide. But anybody who tells you that,
you know, it’s an existential
moment for America is full of
it. And impeachment? What’s
happening? I mean, look, impeachment,
legally, it’s sort of an
amorphous standard. It’s kind of, do you think he
deserves it or no? That’s really how they left it,
the Founders, because they
wanted there to be some wiggle
room. If they had just said high
crimes, you know, treason and
high crimes, we’d know what the
standard was. But “and misdemeanors” opens it
up, because they’re not talking
about misdemeanors like he
jaywalked, right? That opens it up to, it could
be improper conduct; it could
be abuse of power. And much like pornography,
that’s in the eye of the
beholder, as the Supreme Court
said, “I know it when I see it.” Well, so what does that mean? That means it boils down to
politics, and people are going
to see it through their own
partisan lenses. And we’re already seeing that,
right? I mean, Republicans, they’re
kind of going to their
trenches, like, “No, it’s not
impeachable. It might not have been
appropriate, or maybe it was,
but it’s not impeachable,” and the Democrats are saying,
“Oh, I’ve never seen such
unethical conduct. This is it!” As I see it, whether it’s at
the level of, you know,
impeachment or not, the
Democrats are like the boy who
cried wolf on this. You can’t spend the first three
years of the guy’s term telling
us he needs to be impeached for
this, and we have to enact—we have to
follow the emoluments clause
because of this, and we need the 25—we need the
25th Amendment because he’s a
lunatic. And you know, the entire time,
they’ve been telling us he
needs to go; he’s not fit;
we’ve got to get him out of
there. I mean, the first impeachment
push was within moments of his
inauguration. So now they’re like: “No,
really, really. It’s bad. Pay
attention.” And I think a lot of the
country is like, “What am I
supposed to be outraged about
now? OK, give me a minute, and I’ll
work on my outrage, right?” So I think it’s going to come
down to the same political
divide that we’ve been dealing
with in the country. And I wouldn’t be surprised if
the House does impeach the guy. But the trial is kind of
rigged, right? Like the jury is kind of set in
the Senate, because the
Republicans control it. And I don’t see enough
Republicans in that body
turning on a man who’s about to
face reelection anyway, and it’s going to be in the
voters’ hands anyway, doing
something that radical as
finding him guilty, if articles of impeachment come
over from the House.

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