Bill O’Reilly welcomed Donald Trump to his show in the middle of a showdown between the candidate and his network, and got right to business. “I don’t think not showing up in the debate tomorrow night is good for America,” O’Reilly told the GOP frontrunner after thanking him for keeping his word to make the appearance. Trump responded by attacking Barack Obama’s deal with Iran and Fox News for a childish, taunting press release, as well as declaring “zero respect” for Megyn Kelly.
It didn’t take long for O’Reilly to lose patience with Trump’s feelings on the matter. He refused to take the bait on Kelly, impatiently dismissing Trump’s comment that he’s tougher than Kelly, and focused back on the need to stand up and debate. Newt Gingrich got treated “much worse than you ever have” by CNN in 2012, O’Reilly recalled, and stood up and let them have it. Newt Gingrich won that exchange, and so did Trump in his first exchange with Kelly. “You gained in that!” O’Reilly exclaimed.
Note that O’Reilly, somewhat against expectations, defends Kelly and the other Fox moderators when Trump attacks them. In fact, O’Reilly stays in Trump’s face for most of the segment, and reminds Trump that he opened himself up for Kelly’s question by making derogatory comments about Carly Fiorina’s appearance, and that her question was fully “within journalistic bounds.” Trump starts getting steamed and asks for a change of subject, but O’Reilly sticks to his guns.
For that matter, so does Trump, as he kept trying to plug his event tonight. When Trump continues to insist that he’s doing something more important with his fundraiser for the troops, O’Reilly scornfully says, “Don’t give me that,” and declares that Fox News has partnered with him to raise more than $20 million for veterans. Trump still manages to get in at least three plugs on Fox for a competing event, which isn’t bad at all.
Neither man budges as the interview goes into the second segment, in which O’Reilly tells Trump that he needs to stop being so self-centered. At one point, O’Reilly wonders whether Trump wants to give the impression that he’ll let petty issues derail him from doing what’s right, but Trump responds that he won’t “be taken advantage of,” and that he won’t allow others to do the same with the country — a pretty good answer, frankly. O’Reilly finally tries trading on his own personal relationship with Trump to get him back into the debate — because, milkshakes, or something:
Give O’Reilly a lot of credit. Many interviewers have played along with Trump, happy to just get him on their show. He challenged Trump every step of the way, and may have conducted the toughest interview Trump has had in the cycle. Trump held up pretty well, but it’s difficult to come away from this with any other impression than Trump just wants to hold a petty grudge, and even milkshakes from O’Reilly won’t change his mind.
Here’s the full interview:
Update: Left off part of a sentence in the original; it’s fixed now.