It was the sort of conversation that two old friends might have privately, with one knowing all the right ways to guilt the other into agreeing -- only the whole world got to watch. So how does one negotiate with the author of "The Art of the Deal"? Here's what O'Reilly tried:
Step 1: Praise. O'Reilly opened his show with praise for Trump, saying that he is the Republican front-runner "because he is perceived to be a strong leader by many." And he thanked Trump for appearing on the show, something he said many candidates in this position wouldn't do.
Step 2: Detail the core concern. O'Reilly quickly pivoted to explaining why he thinks it's a terrible idea for Trump to skip the debate. "Voters are still assessing you. They need to see you in high-profile situations," O'Reilly said. Trump told O'Reilly that he is wrong. Trump said he is not doing the debate for a number of reasons, including that he has "zero respect" for Kelly.
Step 3: List the pros. O'Reilly told Trump that the debate is an opportunity for him to reach voters who have not yet decided on a candidate. Plus, he said, the debate format gives candidates "the upper-hand" because they have 60 seconds to respond to each question and lay out their case, including stating if the question is fair or not. "By walking away from it, you lose an opportunity to persuade people that you are a strong leader," O'Reilly said. Trump remained unpersuaded and plugged his own Thursday night event in Des Moines, a fundraiser for programs that assist military veterans.
Step 4: Provide an example of someone else. O'Reilly reminded Trump of the CNN debate in 2012 during which a moderator asked former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R) about his ex-wife. Gingrich exploded at the question, earning strong reviews. "He won the South Carolina primary by a lot, and people gained a lot of respect for him," O'Reilly said. "So, you saw Gingrich tested, and the folks liked what he did. And I'm telling you, that's the way to go here." Trump remained unpersuaded, saying that he has already given "great" defensive answers.
"You're making my point, you're making my point," O'Reilly said. "You gained in that. You. Gained. In. That."
Step 5: Offer to host a fundraiser another time. O'Reilly repeatedly told Trump that the two of them could host a fundraiser for military veterans on any other night than the night of the debate. "Look, Don, you can do that any night, and I can help you, and we'll raise five times as much money," he said. "I've got a really good idea that I want you to be involved with." As Trump tried this excuse again later, O'Reilly said: "Oh, don't give me that."
Step 6: Simply state: "You're making a big mistake."
Step 7: Defend Kelly. As Trump continued to describe himself as unfairly attacked, O'Reilly told him that if he were a debate moderator, he would have asked the same questions, although likely in a different way. "You have to understand that No. 1, Kelly's question was within journalistic bounds, all right?" O'Reilly said.
Step 8: Try God. O'Reilly pointed out that Trump recently went to church in Iowa and that a major tenet of Christianity is forgiveness. "I think you should forgive not only journalists who come at you in ways that you don't like, but I think you should be the bigger man and say: You know what? I didn't like it. And you should make that case all day long, but I'm not going to take any action against it," O'Reilly said. "Don't you think that's the right thing to do?" Trump responded: "It probably is, but, you know, it's called an eye for an eye, I guess also you can look at it that way." As this Bible-off continued, O'Reilly then told him to turn the other cheek.
Step 9: Call him a buffoon and a showman. Well, that didn't exactly go over well. Trump became defensive and said: "That's not a very nice way of expressing."
Step 10: Make the case for the American people. O'Reilly listed off great former presidents: Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt. If Trump wins the Republican nomination, he's one more election away from adding his name to that list, O'Reilly said. "I submit to you that you need to change and get away from the personal -- they hurt my feelings, aren't fair to me -- and make it about them, the folks. Not about you," O'Reilly said. "And you elevate then to a place where you could win this if you do that." Trump said it's because of the American people that he's not doing the debate.
Step 11: Put this bickering in context. O'Reilly told Trump that his fight with Fox News is petty compared to the personal attacks he could face as president from other world leaders or terrorists. "It's going to be personal -- they're going to do everything that they can to diminish you," O'Reilly said. "And as president you have to rise above that, all right? And do what's best for the country."
Step 12: Bring up the milkshakes. As Trump continued to stand his ground, O'Reilly got deeply personal. "I bought you so many vanilla milkshakes. I bought you so many vanilla milkshakes -- you owe me," he said. "Will you just consider? I want you to consider, all right? Think about it."
Trump seemed taken aback that O'Reilly should bring up their secret milkshake ledger.
"Well, even though you and I had an agreement that you wouldn't ask me that -- which we did -- I will, therefore, forget that you asked me that," Trump said. "Because I told you, upfront, I said: 'Don't ask me that question.'"
Step 13: End with another compliment. "I don't know any politician under these circumstances that would have come on here and done what you did here tonight," O'Reilly said. "I just don't know any."
Step 14: Wait for Trump to change his mind. Hasn't happened yet.