By the accounts of some Republican news watchers, Megyn Kelly has been called America’s Sweetheart; she’s shepherded conservatives through rough times and held President-Elect Donald Trump’s feet to the fire at critical junctures when his hyperbole was threatening to drink the truth under the table in sparring with candidates both Republican and Democratic.
But now, after a 12-year tenure at Fox News, Kelly has announced she’ll be quitting to move to Fox rival NBC News starting in January 2017.
What prompted this turn of events? Was it off-air sparring with her fellow news host Bill O’Reilly or former Fox News chief Roger Ailes? For an in-depth look, it helps to know a little about Kelly’s background.
Although many people may not know it, Kelly’s early career was not in television or in journalism at all; she actually studied law at Albany Law School and worked for two corporate law firms before quitting the field for good in 2003 and going into broadcast journalism, joining Washington, D.C. ABC affiliate station WJLA-TV as a reporter.
At WJLA, Kelly made use of her law experience when she covered multiple events involving the Supreme Court, including the confirmation hearings of Justice Samuel Alito, Jr. and current Chief Justice John Roberts, the death of former Chief Justice William Rehnquist and the retirement of first female Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
After a year of working at WJLA, Kelly applied to work directly for Fox News. She was hired initially for legal segments and eventually had her own regularly scheduled appearance called Kelly’s Court during the network’s Weekend Live show. She also appeared on The O’Reilly Factor and On the Record with Greta Van Susteren while sometimes acting as a substitute anchor for weekend broadcasts.
In 2010, Kelly got her own afternoon show called America Live which replaced Fox’s previous Live Desk. America Live got 20 percent more viewers after Kelly began hosting the program, bringing the total number of watchers up to nearly 1.3 million.
In 2012, Kelly covered the 2012 presidential election in detail and helped Fox project the results of the election ahead of time. She interviewed former President George W. Bush advisor Karl Rove about the projected outcome while the election was still going on to see if he was being realistic about Barack Obama winning a second term.
After the election, Kelly took a break from Fox for maternity leave, and when she returned, she began a new nightly program titled The Kelly File. The Kelly File has been the highest-rated show on Fox off and on since 2013, regularly beating The O’Reilly Factor, but sometimes finishing second to Sean Hannity’s self-titled show Hannity.
In mid-2015, Kelly began covering the presidential election in earnest, and at the first Republican presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio in August, Kelly served as a moderator. One of the questions she asked Trump was if he thought a man with his temperament should be president.
That question and other prodding by Kelly about Trump’s supposedly offensive remarks toward women generated much media attention, and candidate Donald Trump criticized Kelly’s professionalism, calling her “crazy” and “overrated.” Kelly responded to Trump by saying she wouldn’t “apologize for doing good journalism.”
But when Kelly again moderated the seventh Republican primary debate in Iowa, Trump refused to attend. After the debate was over, Kelly referred to Trump off-camera as “Voldemort,” the villain of the Harry Potter series of books and movies. Going after better ratings (which it got), CNN decided to air a Trump town hall event while Fox and Kelly covered the debate.
A few months later, Kelly requested a personal meeting with Trump to “clear the air” between the two, and at the end of their chat, a truce was declared. How much the meeting was desired by Kelly versus by her boss, then-Fox News chief Roger Ailes, isn’t known, but Ailes did have a series of conversations with Trump prior to the sit-down. Trump met again with Ailes after the meeting and described Kelly as “very, very nice” in a later interview with Sean Hannity.
For Trump, it’s possible the meeting improved his standing with women voters, who had been more critical of him due to Kelly’s previous questioning. For Kelly, the reconciliation allowed her to have access to television news’ biggest draw, and one-on-one interviews with Trump were scheduled for the near future.
Indeed, it’s arguable that prior to the 2016 election, Kelly was just another pretty face at Fox News until the heated remarks and personal controversies of the Republican nominee blew up her image nearly to the size of his, at least for a critical few months.
For Kelly, the timing couldn’t have been better; her contract with Fox was coming to an end. Amidst all the brouhaha, in February 2016, Kelly announced publisher HarperCollins would be releasing her autobiography later in the year, for which she would be paid $10 million.
Kelly went on to interview Trump after her one-on-one meeting with him. Following the interview, she experienced high ratings for an episode of The Kelly File discussing the candidate’s remarks on his infamous Access Hollywood tape with former President George W. Bush’s cousin Billy Bush.
In July 2016, Fox chief Roger Ailes came under fire for allegations of sexual harassment of a number of female staffers and on-air personalities at Fox News. The same month, Kelly admitted to The New York Times that Ailes had made advances toward her at the beginning of her tenure with Fox. The owner of Fox, media baron Rupert Murdoch, ordered Ailes to either quit by August 1 or be fired.
In Kelly’s book, entitled Settle For More (which possibly hints at her contract negotiations with network NBC), she details her allegations against Ailes. Kelly claimed that in several closed-door meetings more than a decade ago, Ailes made sexual remarks and tried to kiss her.
When Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson first accused Ailes of harassment, Fox asked Kelly to publicly defend Ailes, but Kelly refused to do so. How much of the harassment issue has to do with Kelly’s moving to NBC is unknown, but Kelly confirmed that Ailes’ inappropriate behavior toward her ended in 2006.
The names of Kelly’s new shows on NBC have not yet been made public, but it’s certain that Kelly will have a “triple role” at the network — she’ll serve as an anchor, a daytime on-air personality and as the host of her own Sunday night news show.
In the meantime, her book is on the best-selling charts on Amazon, despite receiving a high number of one-star reviews (most of which have been removed) from a large number of fake reviewers. Whether these fake reviewers have any overlap with the legions of hardcore Donald Trump fans in the country is not known, but there’s been speculation about this topic on the Internet.
Whether Kelly will score as highly with viewers at the more liberal NBC network remains to be seen. Certainly, at Fox News, she’s left behind large shoes to fill.
~ American Liberty Report