There was a moment in 2011 when Megyn Kelly went from Fox News anchor to television superstar.
Kelly, fresh off a three-month maternity leave, was interviewing radio host Mike Gallagher on her show America Live. Gallagher had previously called out Kelly’s long absence a “racket” and the outraged anchor wasn’t having it.
“What a moronic thing to say,” Kelly shot back. “What is it about getting pregnant and carrying a baby for nine months that you don’t think deserves a few months off so bonding and recovery can take place?” Gallagher hung his head in shame throughout the entire segment. Kelly raised her chin in triumph.
In the years since, she has cross-examined her subjects with the deftness of a skilled prosecutor, challenged her own co-hosts, and positioned herself as a clear, strong voice among a sea of talking heads. Two nights ago Kelly made headlines again after a heated debate with former House Speaker and Trump surrogate Newt Gingrich. The media swooned at her ability to remain calm and steadfast as Gingrich fought back wildly. The New York Times called it a “bizarre exchange”. Vanity Fair called her an “improbable feminist icon”.
Kelly is not a feminist icon — she’s an icon, period. She is the standard by which all journalists should hold people accountable.
She began her career like few other anchors of her rank. Kelly was 33 years old and a successful trial attorney before deciding to make the leap to television news. Now The Kelly File consistently ranks as the #2 show on Fox News, bringing in over 2 million viewers a month. Her interviewing skills ooze with confidence; her unwavering gaze pierces through the screen and hooks you in within minutes. And that slight head tilt? No one listens as deeply as Kelly.
Four years ago she transfixed audiences during the 11th hour of Election Night when she called out Republican strategist Karl Rove. Fox News had called the election for President Obama and Rove was throwing a hissy fit. What did Megyn Kelly do? She walked back to the Fox News research room to prove the numbers herself then came back to the desk to ask Rove, “Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better, or is this real?" It was a burn felt around the nation.
On Tuesday night, Kelly’s interview with Newt Gingrich boiled over when he became angry at the media for over-reporting Donald Trump’s sexual accusers and under-reporting former President Bill Clinton’s past with women. Gingrich may have been annoyed by all of the mainstream media but there was something about Kelly that specifically pissed him off.
Perhaps it was the fact that the Fox News anchor has played a unique role in Donald Trump’s line of fire. Last August at the first Republican primary debate, Kelly was the first to challenge Trump on calling women “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals”. It was the first time we saw what an experienced interrogator could do to an amateur politician. Trump responded by attacking Kelly on Twitter and boycotting Fox News. The insults may have been classic, thin-skinned Trump but among anchors, Kelly has been the most prominent victim.
Don’t let the Fox News conservative aura fool you; Megyn Kelly is a journalist above anything else. Some might be uncomfortable with the idea that you can dislike Fox News but like the people on it. But Kelly has always embodied the role of a straight-shooting anchor among her right-wing colleagues like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. Now with CEO Roger Ailes gone from the helm and Kelly's contract expiring next summer perhaps she will jump ship and really take her career to the next level. I, for one, will be following closely.
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