By Shiva Chopra,
“… Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president?” Through asking this somewhat invasive question to now-President Donald Trump, Megyn Kelly, an American lawyer, reporter, and television presenter who was notorious for her targeted interviews at the Fox News Channel, has become a kind of female icon— the kind this isn’t even willing to label itself a feminist. This may be because, as she says, her successes speak for themselves and have little to do with her gender.
It wasn’t the first time Kelly stood her ground in the face of a seething man defending unethical conduct last election season. It is not the second, third, or fourth. Trump has repeatedly made remarks about women, and Kelly repeatedly shuts them down. In a landmark election for women — one in which a female candidate has been endorsed for president by a party for the first time in 270 years — it is Kelly who has constantly been making news for speaking up for women. She prodded Trump for more than a year before the Access tape leaked about his treatment of women, where he spoke about women in a crude and negative way- going as far as to say that he can do what he pleases to any woman without her consent. She spoke up against Roger Ailes too, the then-CEO of Fox News, as sexual misconduct charges against the conservative media head emerged, defended victims of sexual abuse, and secured what would be one of the most lucrative cable news contracts in the coming years. It may have taken some shameful men to do shameful things for this to happen, but that election season Kelly became an unexpected feminist symbol.
Kelly had never been the contender most likely to fill that position. On Fox News, a network notorious for embracing nothing other than bottle-blonde beauties enforcing the no-pants protocol on the network, she got her first break in news. But something shifted in the first Republican primary debate when she stood up to Donald Trump.
Kelly asked Trump about the derogatory and misogynistic remarks that he had made over the years about women— calling them “pigs” and making other statements commenting on their looks. By now, we all know how the wealthy reality TV star took her question; he protested about her unfairness, claimed she was menstruating and spent about six months referring to her as a “lightweight” journalist. He proceeded to not turn up for another Fox Business debate at which she was scheduled to moderate.
“Everybody should boycott the @megynkelly show. Never worth watching. Always a hit on Trump! She is sick, & the most overrated person on tv.”— DONALD J. TRUMP (@REALDONALDTRUMP) MARCH 18, 2016
The episode in which Kelly and Trump’s arguments happened, was one in a series of rewarding male-ego deflations and helped her overtake the biggest news star at Fox News, Bill O’Reilly, in ratings in 2015’s main demographic of 25–54. Her rare, but highly entertaining buckling of the conservative party gathered more independent viewers and won praise from liberals like Chris Matthews, Joy Behar, and Gayle King.
Though she still skews to the right and is somewhat conservative, it’s not unusual for the casual left-of-centre viewer to say “I kind of like her”, despite her past actions. Such right-wing stories are viewed with a varying degree of balance in Kelly’s hands and are often handled with compassion and irony. She will express indignation at political correctness, but it’s grounded in common sense, not simply extracted from a list of bullet points.