US Elections 2016

Trump and Fox anchor meet to 'clear the air'

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (left) and Ms Megyn Kelly, a Fox News anchor.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (left) and Ms Megyn Kelly, a Fox News anchor.PHOTOS: AFP, REUTERS

Tentative truce called months after clash at Republican debate could be beneficial to both

NEW YORK • It was a high-level meeting above mid-town Manhattan, the latest twist in a story of public acrimony and private courtship.

Mr Donald Trump, the leading Republican candidate for president, and Ms Megyn Kelly, the Fox News anchor, spoke for about an hour on Wednesday, their first interaction in months.

By day's end, the two had reached a tentative truce in a feud that has captivated the political class and crystallised questions about Mr Trump's attitude towards women and the media.

 

The meeting was requested by Ms Kelly, whose questioning of Mr Trump's derogatory remarks about women in the first Republican debate in August prompted him to attack her as "crazy" and "overrated". And it signalled the possible end of a stand-off strange even by the standards of a confounding election year: the Republican front runner refusing to appear in prime time with one of Fox News' biggest stars.

The detente comes at a critical time for both. Mr Trump, whose pugilism has been a hallmark of his political rise, is moving to soften his image ahead of a potential election campaign. Ms Kelly, who has said that she will consider leaving Fox News after her contract ends next year, faced the prospect of an election year without access to the top-rating draw on television, Mr Trump.

"We met for about an hour, just the two of us, and had a chance to clear the air," Ms Kelly said on her programme on Wednesday night. But while she described Mr Trump as "gracious", she said that he had not yet committed to an interview with her, adding: "I hope we will have news to announce on that soon."

Their sit-down was preceded by a series of conversations between Mr Trump and Mr Roger Ailes, the powerful chairman of Fox News, about the candidate's strained relationship with Ms Kelly.

There were other signs that the meeting, held in Mr Trump's executive office in Trump Tower, was a step forward, if not a full embrace. Afterwards, Mr Trump had lunch with Mr Ailes, and in an interview with another Fox anchor, Mr Sean Hannity, Mr Trump described Ms Kelly as "very, very nice".

Mending ties with Mr Trump gives Ms Kelly the chance to prove that she can land a major interview subject - a "get" in television parlance - even amid tough circumstances. For Mr Trump, the reconciliation could help improve his relationship with female voters, most of whom say in opinion polls that they hold negative views of him.

In another effort to reset his campaign, Mr Trump is hiring a top Republican operative and scheduling a meeting between aides and lawmakers. Mr Trump is under pressure to professionalise his campaign beyond a close-knit group of advisers and expand the appeal of his anti-establishment candidacy in the face of fierce opposition from rival Ted Cruz and a well-funded anti-Trump operation run by establishment Republicans.

Mr Trump announced that he had hired Mr Rick Wiley as his national political director. Mr Wiley, a long-time Republican strategist, had been campaign manager for Mr Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor who dropped out of the presidential race last year.

"He brings decades of experience, and his deep ties to political leaders and activists across the country will be a tremendous asset as we enter the final phase of securing the nomination," Mr Trump said in a statement.

NEW YORK TIMES

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 15, 2016, with the headline 'Trump and Fox anchor meet to 'clear the air''. Print Edition | Subscribe