By DAVID BAUDER
AP Television Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Anticipating another appearance on a debate stage with Donald Trump, Fox News Channel’s Megyn Kelly says their public feud hasn’t affected her preparation and she doesn’t expect a renewal of hostilities with the Republican presidential front runner.
Kelly, who is moderating Thursday’s debate with colleagues Bret Baier and Chris Wallace, said Trump was more in her head before the GOP debate prior to the Iowa caucuses, which he ultimately boycotted.
"I think he’s much more focused on securing the nomination now and not on me, and that’s how it should be," Kelly said. Thursday’s debate, the 11th among Republicans, will be held at Detroit’s Fox Theater from 9 to 11 p.m. EST.
Kelly’s questioning angered Trump during the first GOP debate last August, most prominently when he was confronted with some of his past comments about women. He responded harshly, and skipped Fox’s Iowa debate when the network refused to remove Kelly as moderator. Ted Cruz beat Trump in Iowa.
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said he looks forward to Thursday’s debate.
"It’s not a focus of our preparation but obviously it’s the elephant in the room," Fox’s Baier said. "It’s not front of mind, but it’s in mind. We’re not going to focus on one candidate or the other."
At the very least, the Fox moderators won’t have to prepare one set of questions for if Trump showed up and another for if he didn’t, as they did in Iowa. Kelly, who has not interviewed Trump since last summer’s dust-up, said she’s preparing the same tough but fair questions she always tries for.
"I don’t need to be overly tough to prove that I am some sort of tough gal and I don’t want to go easy on him to disprove the people who think I have it in for him," she said. She believes Trump, a novice politician, had the misguided thought Fox would go easy on him.
"Perhaps his expectations for the event were not set properly by the people who were advising him," she said. "I think at this point in the game he understands better how these things go. He knows he can handle me. He can handle any interviewer."
Fox’s debate preparation became a little easier with Ben Carson announcing Wednesday that he is effectively suspending his campaign and not attending. Kelly said he wouldn’t have gotten much attention, anyway: Fox will concentrate its questions on Trump, Cruz and Marco Rubio – making for potentially awkward moments for John Kasich.
In one of the campaign’s many oddities, the Trump-Kelly episode created lingering bad feelings between the leading Republican candidate and the television network most popular with Republican viewers. Kelly was one of the first public figures caught in the middle of one of Trump’s withering attacks on media, which prompted some of his supporters to attack her on social media.
"It didn’t create any personal animus on my part, but that doesn’t mean I enjoyed it or wanted it to continue," she said. She tried to stay away from the angry comments on social media, but it’s hard to avoid when you need to use Twitter for work.
At its worst, Trump went on CNN to say of Kelly that "you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever." Many interpreted that to be a crude reference to a woman’s menstrual cycle. Kelly said she understood that attacks come with the territory but that her husband was upset and some of the language used filtered down to her 4-year-old daughter through friends. She also has sons age 6 and 2.
"I’ll put it to you this way – Donald Trump is the only name they know of the people who are running for president," she said.
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