After nine months of a simmering feud, Donald Trump and Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly finally sat down for a highly-anticipated, one-on-one interview that aired Tuesday night on Fox.
The pressure riding on the event was equal for both interviewer and the subject. For Trump, the interview was a chance for him appear more "presidential," a makeover project that he has embarked on since becoming the presumptive Republican nominee earlier this month in an attempt to soothe establishment conservatives concerned about his bombastic rhetoric. Stakes were almost as high for Kelly, who worked to smooth things over with the Republican standard-bearer during on her first prime-time network TV special on Tuesday night.
But the exchange ended up resembling more of a laugh-filled reunion between two friends, rather than a modern version of the Frost-Nixon interviews.
Kelly stuck to largely softball questions and accepted the softball answers Trump offered up in return.
"When did you realize you could be president?" she asked him in the beginning of the interview.
Trump responded, "I felt the debates were a big thing." They moved on.
Kelly asked Trump if he regretted any of the offensive things he's said, both in person and on Twitter over the past year, including retweeting comments referring to her as a "bimbo."
"I could have maybe used different language in a couple of instances," he answered. "But overall, I'd have to be very happy with the outcome. And I think if I didn't conduct myself in the way I've done it, I don't think I would have been successful [in the presidential race]."
"The thing that gets me in trouble is the retweets," he added, which was the closest he came to walking back the statements that have made Republican leaders nervous about his candidacy.
Trump declined to name any mistakes that he had made during his presidential campaign, rebuffing Kelly's assertion that he had called his decision to retweet an unflattering photo of Heidi Cruz a "mistake" earlier this year. (He did, in a New York Times interview). Kelly pushed him again on the point, but Trump again denied that he had used that language.
"I said I could have done without it," he said. "I'm not walking it back." He later added: "I wish I didn't do it. I guess you could say she's fair game, because she is very much involved with the campaign."
Pressed on the "bimbo" retweet in particular, Trump at first had to confirm: "Did I say that?"
When Kelly insisted that he had, "many times," Trump at first said "excuse me" and laughed. But then he added: "Over your life, Megyn, you have been called a lot worse, wouldn't you say?"
The much-hyped interview was the first time Trump and Kelly have faced each other in public since the first GOP debate last August, in which Trump infamously attacked her for asking him questions that he felt were "not very nice." After the debate, Trump said that Kelly had "blood coming out of her whatever," as a possible explanation for her tough questioning. Many expected Tuesday's interview would be an opportunity for Kelly to hold Trump accountable one-on-one for his incendiary rhetoric frequently aimed at herself and others over the past nine months.
When she asked the Republican frontrunner about his comments after the August debate, Trump said he was taken aback by her questions about his rhetoric towards women, including calling various women "fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals."
"That's the first question that I have ever been asked during a debate," Trump told Kelly Tuesday night. "And I am saying to myself, 'Man, what a question.' "
But Kelly didn't press Trump further on much of anything related to policy or substance, instead opting toward personal questions that turned the interview into a quasi-therapy session. She asked him about the death of his younger brother, Fred Trump Jr., his marriages, his family, and if anyone has ever "hurt you emotionally?"
"When I'm wounded I go after people hard. And I try to unwound myself," Trump responded. "I view myself as a person who's fighting for survival."
The interview followed a week of bad press for Trump, including an excoriating New York Times investigation into his lifelong treatment of women, wall-to-wall coverage of his refusal to release his tax returns, and more Twitter spats with female political opponents, including Hillary Clinton and Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Expectations were equally high for Kelly's performance on Tuesday night. She has become one of the most prominent voices on cable news in recent years through her Fox News show, The Kelly File. Her contract with Fox News is up next year and she has said she is interested in moving onto something more high-profile, such as a Barbara Walters-style primetime interview show. Tuesday night's Megyn Kelly Presents was a way of testing the waters — and ratings — of such an endeavor.
Fox had hyped up the event as much as possible. The network promoted the event as "the interview you've been waiting for," including on other cable news networks, and broadened its audience by airing the special on their broadcast channel, rather than on the Fox News cable channel. Kelly also interviewed actress Laverne Cox, OJ Simpson attorney Robert Shapiro and actor Michael Douglas.
Despite the push, the Trump interview received a lukewarm response from most critics in the media. But there was one exception.
Trump himself took to Twitter to gush about it immediately after it was over. "Well, that is it. Well done Megyn --- and they all lived happily ever after!"
Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @oliviaLbecker