I'm guessing Bill Hemmer knew what his good friend Megyn Kelly was up to when we spoke before his lunch address at Xavier University Wednesday.
It was about 11a.m. – just as Kelly was heading to her secret noon meeting with Donald Trump in Manhattan's Trump Tower. Kelly told "The Kelly File" viewers Wednesday night that she requested the meeting, and they "had a chance to clear the air" during hour-long session.
I wanted to hear Hemmer's take on Kelly, his Fox News Channel co-anchor for three years (2006-09), whom Trump has demonized as "crazy" and "highly overrated," and boycotted a Fox News presidential debate because of her presence.
I've known Hemmer for 25 years, but found him kind of coy.
“I want you to know that Megyn Kelly is doing A-OK. She’s all right. She is smart, and she is talented, and she is prepared for all of this,” said Hemmer, when we chatted at the Cintas Center before his “Distinguished Speaker Series” lunch address for the Xavier University College of Business attended by his parents and many family members.
“She’s fun and fast. She has embraced entirely her role and her position, and it’s good to see. I’m very happy for her.
“Megyn can take care of herself, I guarantee you that. We’ll see what he (Trump) chooses to do,” said Hemmer, the Delhi Township native who c0-anchors “America’s Newsroom” 9-11 a.m. weekdays with Martha MacCallum.
The secret summit, USA Today says, was part of Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes' efforts to get Trump to appear on Kelly's Fox Broadcasting's special May sweeps special. Kelly told viewers she asked Trump to do an interview.
"Stay tuned," she said.
It would be just another wild turn in a crazy campaign. But don't call 2016 the wildest presidential campaign ever. Hemmer points to 2008, when the Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton race wasn’t decided until June. He reminds people that in 2000, he went to Tallahassee “for an overnight stay and left 37 days later” after the Bush-Gore recount.
The 51-year-old Delhi Township native loves covering news. He loves politics. All the divisiveness in this election season hasn’t damped his enthusiasm, or soured viewers’ appetites for political TV news. More than 24 million people watched the first Republican debate on Fox August, 15 months before the presidential election.
“I, for one, love the process. It’s the greatest reality show in America,” Hemmer said.
“My best take away from all of this is that people are paying attention, and they’re doing it at a lot earlier stage that I can ever recall…. (Political coverage) viewership is much higher than it ever was four years ago. People are drawn to the process, and I think, as an American, that’s a good thing.”
Though he loves news, Hemmer started in TV sports. After graduating from Elder High School (1983) and Miami University (1987), he did sports for WLWT-TV and WCPO-TV. Then he then took a year off to backpack around the world in 1993 -- before e-mail, cell phones or text messages. He returned to Channel 9 as a news anchor for a couple years before joining CNN in 1995. He jumped to Fox News in 2005, a year after Kelly was hired from a Washington D.C. TV station.
As a New York resident, Hemmer has met Trump more than a dozen times. He offered these insights into Trump:
“He’s a remarkably engaging person. His rallies are off the cuff. They’re not scripted. He doesn’t use a TelePrompter. He speaks in a way he’s most comfortable, like he’s sitting in a room talking to people… He has run a campaign that has captured the imagination of a lot of people. No one has quite done it like he has before….
“There were 17 candidates at the first debate. Sixteen people did a walk through before the debate. He didn’t. I considered that entirely reckless. Little did I know what was going to happen when he walked into that arena, and owned the place! And that’s a sense of his confidence.”
One last note: Hemmer, known for his purple Elder neckties on fall football Fridays, wore a dark blue Xavier-like tie Wednesday. “I have to play for the home team today. Mama raised no dummy.”