Skip to main site content.
Megyn Kelly at The 2016 Women In The World Summit. (Marc Bryan-Brown/Women in the World)

Tough talk

Megyn Kelly: “We have to worry about numbers … but we also have to worry about our souls and journalism”

By Emma-Kate Symons on April 6, 2016

Megyn Kelly lashed out at the broadcast media for “breaking the rules” by “wallpapering” their programs with Donald Trump campaign events and not asking the tough questions, especially after he began vilifying and boycotting her following their celebrated Fox News debate clash.

Speaking to Yahoo Global News anchor Katie Couric at the Women in the World Summit in New York, the respected, unflinching host of The Kelly File suggested news channels were going for ratings and access, and the press should share some responsibility for the Republican candidate’s unexpected success with voters – because it wasn’t doing its job.

“We have to worry about numbers to some extent…but we also have to worry about our souls and journalism,” Kelly said to loud applause and cheers at the Lincoln Center.

Megyn Kelly at The 2016 Women In The World Summit. (Marc Bryan-Brown/Women in the World)
Megyn Kelly interviewed by Katie Couric at The 2016 Women In The World Summit. (Marc Bryan-Brown/Women in the World)

Recalling Trump’s rejection of her after she dared question him over his misogyny during last August’s Fox-hosted Republican debate, and his refusal to show up to subsequent Fox-hosted election events (resulting in the costly cancellation of one Town Hall) Kelly said: “You’re seeing a lot more of it now but what would have happened if in that moment everyone had gotten tough, really tough, equally, on all of them including [Trump]?

“You can’t as a presidential candidate shut down everybody. You can’t shut down Fox, CNN, ABC …. you can’t. So there’s strength in numbers on our side too. This was an opportunity for solidarity among the press that I think we missed.

“I wonder sometimes whether the question I asked him at that debate and the backlash against me has cowed other journalists because they don’t want it to happen to them or maybe they don’t have a boss who they think will stand behind them … or maybe they just want access and they want the numbers.”

Asked by Couric if journalists felt their hands were tied and “they didn’t want to kill the goose that was laying the golden egg” in the form of ratings Kelly agreed. “It’s so ironic because if everyone had stood up from the beginning and asked very tough questions — which is what we get paid to do — we wouldn’t have had this issue.

“Because we would have all been shoulder to shoulder asking the tough questions”.

In the view of the former corporate lawyer, the fact that Trump often did well out of difficult questions was irrelevant.

“What his answers are is for the voters to evaluate and make up their minds about.

“What the questions are is up to us.

“I don’t care whether it makes a difference or not. That’s for the voters. Our job is to press. We’re supposed to press.”

Without naming rival networks or individuals Kelly was scathing about TV news channels allowing Trump to repeatedly “phone in” his constant interviews rather than fronting up on camera.

“Now the journalists are trying to defend themselves by saying ‘well we ask Ted Cruz and if he doesn’t say yes we ask Donald Trump and he says ‘yes’.

“That doesn’t explain all the phoners that the Sunday shows allowed Trump and not the other candidates.”

According to Kelly, who today was reportedly considering not renewing her contract, the Fox News Sunday show hosted by Chris Wallace “is the only Sunday show that from the beginning said we’re not doing it (phoners)”.

“You want to come on this program…you come into the studio or we’ll send a satellite truck to you and put you on camera but we’re not doing a phoner on the Sunday shows.

“They broke the rules only for Trump. Not only that we’re talking about the campaign events.”

In a lively discussion featuring two high-profile news anchors throwing questions back at each other Kelly, asked her interviewer “when have you ever seen news stations take campaign events” and Couric chimed in “for 90 minutes”.

“Right we don’t do that for anybody. We don’t do that for Hillary, we don’t do that for Bernie or Cruz we never did it for Rubio or Scott Walker. Only one candidate.”

“Then the media would sit there and say will say it’s amazing how the polls are up up up. It’s like – you’re putting your thumb on the scale.

The audience broke into laughter as Kelly mimicked in a high-pitched voice the nervous cries of ‘why’ from a media that had played a key role in creating the Trump electoral phenomenon, even if she understood his straight-talking appeal to “working class people” who are hurting.

After going out of her way to point out that she held no animosity towards her Republican nemesis even if she was “never going to love him or hate him” Kelly insisted she was not biased in her claims of media irresponsibility.

“It’s not an anti-Trump thing. It’s just a responsibility as a journalist’s thing.

“We really need to have an honest self-assessment in the post mortem to figure out what we’ve done.”

Despite earlier reports she wasn’t sure her future remained with Fox, Kelly offered unqualified praise for her boss Roger Ailes, who had lost millions of network dollars when Trump’s boycott led to a Town Hall cancellation.

“Fox has done a good job supporting me and I feel for my boss Roger Ailes because think of the position he’s been put in.

“This is unprecedented for a candidate to go after a news anchor in this way.

“(Trump) said I’m not showing up unless you pull her. I think a lot of network bosses would have said you’re gone – some people are so ratings driven…”

Fox had “stood behind” her, despite being placed in a very difficult position with one of their news anchors under attack.

“They can’t ban him.. nor should ban him,” she cautioned.

“If only we could get to a point where he would stop saying all those things it would be great!”

With additional reporting by Yasmeen Qureshi.

Watch the full panel here: