“Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly” was many things for many people. For the former Fox personality, it was her major coming-out party on NBC. For Russian President Vladimir Putin, it was a game.
And for viewers, it was a chance to see if months and months of heavy buildup surrounding the network’s new star anchor would pay off.
The hour-long news show promised to be “a tough conversation” between Kelly and the Russian leader. But for Putin, it was child’s play as he displayed an elusive and ultimately dismissive demeanor toward Kelly.
The interview, which was teased for weeks on NBC as a must-see exclusive, lasted less than 10 minutes. But that was just about enough time to confirm that she’s still not a great interviewer, and he’s still one of the most deceptive interview subjects around.
Short of asking “How many people have you killed with your bare hands, Mr. Putin?,” Kelly did everything she could to get something out of him other than smirks, huffs and “nyets.”
Who on President Donald Trump’s team did U.S. Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak meet with, she asked.
“There were no meetings,” Putin said through an interpreter.
“No meetings between Ambassador Kislyak and anybody from the Trump campaign?” Kelly pressed.
He didn’t know.
But wouldn’t he know if such meetings were taking place, she asked.
“That’s completely nonsense! Do you even understand what you’re asking, or not?”
“Well, you’re his boss,” she said.
And that’s about as far as that exchange went.
It was the most high-profile interview Kelly had conducted since sitting down with Trump at Fox back in May 2016. It was an anticipated event following her debate performance with Trump, in which he felt Kelly had treated him unfairly.
On “Sunday Night,” Kelly came out of the gate in a much more forceful manner than she had with Trump, and asked much harder questions. But it was a poorly planned match in which to make an impressive launch for her series. She has to win over a wider audience than she had at Fox, and Putin ranks as one of the world’s toughest interview subjects, a proven master of deception.
The interview took place in St. Petersburg over the weekend, after Kelly had moderated the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, “Putin’s signature event.”
Clips were played from the event that showed Kelly asking Putin in front of 4,000 guests about Russia’s role in the hacking of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Did Russia hack the U.S. election, she asked, pointing out that U.S. intelligence agencies had found ample evidence, “fingerprints,” that it had meddled.
“What fingerprints, hoof prints, horn prints?,” he answered dismissively. “What are you talking about? … It could come from your home IP address, as if your daughter carried out the attack.”
The setup was a recipe for failure, especially for Kelly, who was hired for $15 million to $20 million by NBC last year after leaving Fox News, the conservative news outlet that had launched and propelled her career.