Megyn Kelly, host of the primetime show The Kelly File on Fox News Channel, has seen her name recognition and national profile increase this election season. This is primarily due to the fact that the 2016 frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, New York City businessman Donald Trump, decided to launch a months-long social media attack on her and to spend an enormous amount of energy deriding her career because he felt that one of her tough debate questions at the very first Fox News Channel Republican debate on August 6 was “unfair.”
Megyn Kelly’s sharp question that so offended the real estate magnate (or, perhaps more accurately, the “brand licensor,” as political writer and commentator Elise Jordan referred to Trump in Time Magazine last week) referenced Donald Trump’s long history of both sexist and misogynistic comments — both about women and made directly to women — on television and in interviews over the course of several decades. Many of the comments that Megyn Kelly cited for her question were made on Donald Trump’s popular NBC primetime reality show, The Apprentice. Trump also routinely makes many of these comments on Twitter.
“You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs,’ and ‘disgusting animals.’ Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president?”
Megyn Kelly gave an interview to Variety this week for their Power of Women issue, in which she discussed the onslaught of insults that she has received from Donald Trump — as well as from many of his supporters under the anonymity afforded them by Twitter and other web-based communication — over the past eight months. For his part, Trump has called her a third-rate journalist, made a not-so-thinly-veiled suggestion that she may have been menstruating (thus overly emotional) when she asked the debate question, and has accused her of mistreating him and treating him “unfairly” on numerous occasions.
It’s worth noting here that Trump is known for repeating stock phrases: Donald Trump’s go-to escape hatch for the so-called pledge that the Republican candidates signed for Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus — stating that they would support the eventual Republican presidential nominee — has been that he will retract his pledge if the party treats him “unfairly.”
Megyn Kelly told Variety that she feels Donald Trump’s attempts to intimidate her raise “real First Amendment issues.” Not only is Trump running for president, he has focused specifically on ginning up dislike for the press among his supporters and has made absurd comments about “opening up” libel laws if he were elected so that he could retaliate against journalists who make statements he doesn’t like (obviously that falls under the authority of Congress, not the president, and such changes to the law would be subject to scrutiny and likely dismissal by the courts). The United States has a two-party political system, and the fact that the frontrunner for the nomination of one of those two parties has such a negative view of the press is troubling to many.
Megyn Kelly went on to state in the interview that she has felt supported by Fox News Channel and Roger Ailes but that she has not decided whether she’ll be staying with the cable news channel when her contract is up after the election.
“Never say never. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve had a great 12 years here, and I really like working for Roger Ailes. I really like my show, and I love my team. But you know, there’s a lot of brain damage that comes from the job. There was probably less brain damage when I worked in the afternoon. I was less well known. I had far less conflict in my life. I also have three kids who are soon going to be school [sic] from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. I come to work at 3:30. I like to see my children. Having said that, my boss has been good about working with me to make me happy–he knows I’m a hard worker. I’ve had few problems here where I couldn’t talk to him and say, ‘Can we work something out?,’ and come away happy. […] Listen, this is a fickle business. What if they called me and fired me tomorrow? I have to keep my options open.”
Kelly mused about hosting a talk show, acknowledging how many public figures have attempted that format and failed. She expressed interest in celebrity interviews and human interest stories and plugged an upcoming primetime special she’ll be hosting that covers these areas. “I do love covering the news,” she explained. “I just don’t think that’s the perfect thing for me.”
Megyn Kelly expressed dismay at becoming “part of the story,” and pointed out that Donald Trump initially asked his supporters to boycott The Kelly File, but her ratings went up due to the controversy he caused. Trump then took credit for her show’s ratings increase and boasted that she owes him part of her salary, but Kelly made sure to point out that his boycott had to fail in order for that to happen. She also says that she only uses Twitter for work and tries to avoid looking at her mentions, indicating that while her increased profile may be opening doors for her professionally, everything is not necessarily coming up roses when Donald Trump chooses a victim and unleashes his angry supporters.
[Image courtesy of Joe Raedle/Getty Images]