Megyn Kelly said Tuesday she didn’t want to reveal much about President-elect Donald Trump’s treatment of her the past year so as not to be accused of trying to tip the election, but now believes it’s important for people to know the story in case the new administration is hostile to the press.
In her new biography, “Settle For More,” the Fox News Channel personality lays out the private stories behind what happened after her debate question on Trump’s treatment of women caused the Republican to bitterly go after her on social media and in interviews.
One low point, Kelly writes, was when one of her children asked her to define “bimbo” — part of the name-calling against her — and also said she was afraid Trump would hurt her.
Even before that summer 2015 debate, Kelly writes that Trump threatened her with a Twitter storm because he’d heard she was going to ask him a particularly tough question. It raises the question of whether Kelly was sabotaged from within, but Kelly said in an interview that it may have been a bluff because Trump was concerned she would ask him about his treatment of an ex-wife.
Throughout the siege, Kelly said she was convinced Trump was trying to bait her into saying something that would disqualify her from covering the campaign, and she didn’t want to be accused of favoring Hillary Clinton.
Now she believes — she hopes — there’s peace between them and he has bigger things to worry about.
“Every time I thought it was over he would prove me wrong, so I’m a little reluctant to say on the record the word ‘over,'” she said. “But I have several months to back that up and I feel that there’s a warm front that’s been going through.”
She knows she’ll never be his favorite journalist.
“That’s OK with me,” she said. “I’d rather be in that place where I’m not his favorite and I’m not Hillary’s favorite than be his favorite so I can have access, but sell my soul. That’s really what I felt my choice was the past year. There are other journalists who could cover Trump skeptically and he wouldn’t hold it against them, but there was something about me.
“I really had to choose — am I going to be an honest journalist and do that, or am I going to suck up to Trump?” she said. “I chose the former, and it’s worked out fine for me.”
It was far from the only big story Kelly was involved in during the past year. Following former colleague Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit, Kelly’s private testimony about former Fox News chief executive Roger Ailes’ unwanted advances over a six-month period a decade ago helped lead to Ailes’ firing this past summer. She alleges in the books that Ailes made sexually suggestive comments to her and tried to kiss her, then made an angry reference to her contract when she rebuffed him. Ailes has denied any untoward advances involving Kelly.
Until Carlson’s lawsuit, Kelly said she knew of only one other woman at Fox with a similar experience. Since it was around the same time, she chalked it up to Ailes wanting an extramarital affair then, rather than the actions of a predator.
With Ailes under assault following the lawsuit, he reached out to Kelly through emissaries hoping she’d defend him, in essence asking her to lie for him, she said.
After the incidents and before Ailes’ fall, Kelly said they had a fine professional relationship. He was generous to her family and helped advance her career.
“I’m sure he does feel betrayed by me,” she said. “But I feel betrayed by him.”
Kelly said she felt an obligation to women who had been in similar circumstances to tell her story, and she wants companies to have strong measures in place to prevent such abuses.
“I want the other women out there suffering to know it can happen to anybody — even somebody like me, who had been a lawyer for nine years,” she said, “because I do think women tend to blame themselves.”
She acknowledged her actions led to some tensions with other people within Fox, because Ailes had engendered much loyalty. But she said a more current alleged victim came forward — although not publicly — with a story that “was deeply disturbing” and that plus the volume of accusations seemed to settle debate within the company.
Kelly said these experiences will have little to do with her deliberations over her future. Her contract with Fox expires next July and keeping her in the network’s prime-time lineup is a key priority of the Murdoch family that runs 21st Century Fox.
“I do feel very grateful that I have options,” she said. “So far I’ve had a really great experience working with the Murdochs and really would love to continue working with them. I’ve been nothing but impressed by them.”
The factors she’s weighing “mostly involve a 7-, 5- and 3-year-old,” she said, and her desire for more family time.