Media outlets praised Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly after her contentious interview with former Speaker of the House and current Fox contributor Newt Gingrich over allegations of sexual assault against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, declaring her a “feminist icon” and “a consistent voice for women’s issues.” But Kelly has hardly been consistent on “women’s issues.” She has a history of promoting falsehoods about Planned Parenthood, denigrating efforts to expand reproductive rights, disregarding the gender pay gap, and criticizing efforts to combat sexual assault on college campuses.
Megyn Kelly Challenges Newt Gingrich Over Sexual Assault Accusations Against Trump
Fox’s Megyn Kelly Calls Out Newt Gingrich’s Defense Of Trump Over Sexual Assault Allegations. In an interview with Newt Gingrich, a Fox contributor and surrogate for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Fox’s Megyn Kelly defended coverage of the allegations of sexual assault against Trump, saying that the allegations are “a big story.” Kelly also slammed Gingrich for defending Trump over the allegations, telling him that “your defensiveness on this might speak volumes.” From the October 25 edition of Fox News’ The Kelly File:
MEGYN KELLY (HOST): If Trump is a sexual predator, that is --
NEWT GINGRICH: He's not a sexual predator; you can't say that.
KELLY: OK, that's your opinion. I'm not taking a position on it.
GINGRICH: You could not defend that statement.
KELLY: I’m not taking a position on it.
GINGRICH: Now, I'm sick and tired of people like you using language that's inflammatory that's not true.
KELLY: Excuse me, Mr. Speaker, you have no idea whether it's true or not. What we know is that --
GINGRICH: And neither do you.
KELLY: That's right, and I'm not taking a position on it, unlike you.
GINGRICH: Yes you are, when you use the words, you took a position --
KELLY: So what I said is --
GINGRICH: And I think it's very unfair of you to do that, Megyn. I think that is exactly the bias people are upset by.
KELLY: I think that your defensiveness on this may speak volumes, sir. What I said is, if --
GINGRICH: No, let me suggest to you --
KELLY: No, no, no, let me make my point and then I’ll give you the floor. What I said is, if Trump is a sexual predator, then it’s a big story. And what we saw on that tape was Trump himself saying that he likes to grab women by the genitals and kiss them against their will. That’s what we saw. Then we saw 10 women come forward after he denied actually doing it at a debate to say, “that was untrue, he did it to me, he did it to me.” We saw reporters. We saw people who had worked with him, people from Apprentice and so on and so forth. He denies it all, which is his right. We don’t know what the truth is. My point to you is, as a media story, we don’t get to say that 10 women are lying. We have to cover that story, sir.
GINGRICH: Sure, OK, so it’s worth 23 minutes of the three networks to cover that story. And Hillary Clinton in a secret speech in Brazil to a bank that pays her $225,000, saying her dream is an open border where 600 million people could come into America, that’s not worth covering?
KELLY: That is worth covering -- and we did.
GINGRICH: You want to go back through the tapes of your show recently? You are fascinated with sex, and you don't care about public policy.
KELLY: Me -- really?
GINGRICH: Now that's what I get out of watching you tonight. [Fox News, The Kelly File, 10/25/16]
Media Glorify Kelly As Women’s Advocate
The Daily Beast: Megyn Kelly “Is One Of The Few Women On Screen Strongly Standing Up For Women.” The Daily Beast’s Tim Teeman wrote about “the power of Megyn Kelly’s feminism,” arguing that “she is one of the few women on screen strongly standing up for women and women’s related issues before a vast audience.” Teeman commended Kelly’s “steeliness and self-possession,” noting her ability to remain “unflappably insistent in the face of … men’s blustering,” and claimed that “she has certainly set a powerful feminist example.” From the October 26 article (emphasis original):
In a way, the question of Kelly’s feminism is a canard because the extreme cycle of the presidential campaign has—in the excitable, quick-to-define lens of the media—made her into a feminist, symbolically at least, whether she likes it or not.
Kelly is one of the few women on screen strongly standing up for women and women’s related issues before a vast audience, and on a network not known for its feminist leanings.
If she is a feminist, she is not only one because of how she has dealt with Trump and Gingrich, but also in remaining calmly, unflappably insistent in the face of both men’s blustering that those who have power should answer questions relating to alleged past abuses and misogyny.
Personally, in capitalizing on the furor that followed such incidents, she has revealed a steeliness and self-possession in taking charge of her own career and future.
If Kelly isn’t a feminist, she has certainly set a powerful feminist example—and that may ultimately be more powerful than owning or rejecting the word itself. [The Daily Beast, 10/26/16]
Vanity Fair: Kelly “Has Become An Improbable Feminist Icon.” Vanity Fair applauded Kelly for her interview with Gingrich, claiming it “wasn’t the first time this election season” that she had “stood her ground in the face of a seething man defending alleged bad behavior.” The article declared that “Kelly has become an improbable feminist icon this election season,” and it compared her interview of Gingrich to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s debates with Trump, claiming that both “women remained unruffled and on message.” From the October 26 article:
In what has become a regular occurrence during this unpredictable and interminable election cycle, a split screen separated a calm woman from a frothing man spewing bizarre remarks that, wittingly or not, diminished the significance of sexual assault.
This wasn’t the first time this election season that Kelly, whose contract is up at Fox News next year, has stood her ground in the face of a seething man defending alleged bad behavior. It’s not the second, third, or, fourth, even. In a historic cycle for women—one in which a female candidate was nominated by a major party for president for the first time in 270 years—it is Kelly who has been the one consistently making headlines for standing up for women. She prodded Trump about his treatment of women more than a year before the Access tape leaked, called out Roger Ailes when sexual harassment allegations against the conservative media kingpin surfaced, defended victims of sexual assault, and negotiated for what could be one of the most coveted cable news contracts in the coming years. It may have taken a few deplorable men to do deplorable things for it to happen, but Kelly has become an improbable feminist icon this election season.
Watching the split screen of the interaction, it’s hard not to see the comparisons between Kelly and Gingrich on her show and Clinton and Trump on a debate stage. In both cases, Kelly and Clinton easily figured out how to get under these men’s skin with a few choice words—for Clinton, simply referring to Trump as “Donald”; for Kelly, calling out Gingrich’s “defensiveness.” Both men struggled to control their temper as the women remained unruffled and on message. [Vanity Fair, 10/26/16]
Bustle: “It Sure Felt Great To Watch Yet Another Accomplished Woman Stand Up And Hold Her Ground.” Bustle lauded Kelly’s interview, saying that, like Clinton, she “managed to remain calm when faced when an increasingly aggravated man yelling at her.” Bustle added that “it sure felt good to watch yet another accomplished woman stand up and hold her ground against a man intent on making her seem wrong.” From the October 26 article:
Kelly, like Clinton, managed to remain calm when faced when (sic) an increasingly aggravated man yelling at her, and reminded Gingrich that Bill isn't running for president, and said succinctly what so many of us have been thinking:
The polls also show that the American public is less interested in the deeds of Hillary Clinton's husband than they are in the deeds of the man who asked us to make him president — Donald Trump.
It might just be a blip in the radar of this election that seems to come straight out of a satirical dystopian novel, but it sure felt good to watch yet another accomplished woman stand up and hold her ground against a man intent on making her seem wrong. [Bustle, 10/26/16]
Megyn Kelly’s History Shows She Is Hardly A Feminist Icon
Kelly Dismissed The Rights Of Victims Of Sexual Assault And Preventative Measures To Combat Assault
Kelly: “It Has Gotten To The Point Of Ridiculousness Where Now, They Want Verbal Consent Every Step Of The Way.” Kelly mocked the movement to “diminish sexual assault on college campuses” claiming that “it has gotten to the point of ridiculous where now, they want verbal consent every step of the way.” Kelly also slammed “consent contracts” and argued that the movement supporting them is “going in a direction … where we completely -- we almost entirely eliminate the rights of men.” From the July 2015 edition of Fox News’ The Kelly File:
MEGYN KELLY (HOST): Everybody wants to diminish sexual assault on college campuses. But it has gotten to the point of ridiculousness where now, they want verbal consent every step of the way.
KELLY: Here is the reason it is so concerning. Because it is important to improve the rights of women who are victims of sexual assault on college campuses. But we are going in a direction, and we have been covering this repeatedly on The Kelly File, where we completely -- we almost entirely eliminate the rights of men. And there is a presumption now on these campuses, thanks to the Obama administration, of guilt. There's a presumption of non-consent. And if you are a young man who gets accused, it is your burden to go in there and prove consent and we are getting to the point now, where you have to have a contract. And if you don't you are going to be presumed a rapist. [Fox News, The Kelly File, 7/7/15]
Kelly: “Reporters [Are] Bending Over Backwards To Talk About, You Know, Women’s Rights … With Nary A Word About The Young Men.” Kelly criticized media outlets that are “showing some support for Rolling Stone” because, as they say, “even though the story as fabricated … it shed light on an alleged epidemic of rape on college campuses.” She lamented that there were “still reporters bending over backwards to talk about, you know, women’s rights, and female victims on campus, with nary a word about the young men whose lives are being ruined.” From the April 2015 edition of Fox News’ The Kelly File:
MEGYN KELLY: Developing tonight, a number of media outlets are now showing some support for Rolling Stone magazine after the publication was slammed in a scathing report over its now-discredited story on a purported gang rape at the University of Virginia at a fraternity house. Despite the fact that a Columbia University team called the Rolling Stone report a complete journalism failure, some reporters and pundits now suggesting that even though the story was fabricated, or at least grossly wrong, it achieved a noble goal, saying it shed light on an alleged epidemic of rape on college campuses.
KELLY: “Go down there with an open mind” -- and it's amazing what that instruction will do for a young reporter. But what we see here is still reporters bending over backwards to talk about, you know, women's rights, and female victims on campus, with nary a word about the young men whose lives are being ruined, in some instances unfairly, and were nearly ruined here by false accusations. [Fox News, The Kelly File, 4/7/15]
Kelly: Helping Rape Victims “Is A Laudable Cause” But Has “Eliminated Due Process For Any Accused Man On College Campuses.” Kelly criticized the Obama administration for sticking “its nose into college campuses” in an “unprecedented” way. She argued that “they wanted to help rape victims, which is a laudable cause, but in doing so, they have eliminated due process for any accused man on college campus.” Kelly expressed sympathy for a man accused of sexual assault because he was “deemed a sexual predator” and he “cannot go to another university because of this label.” From the April 22 edition of Fox News’ The Kelly File:
MEGYN KELLY (HOST): So this, just so the viewers understand, we're talking about the administration, which has stuck its nose into college campuses in a way unprecedented. They wanted to help rape victims, which is a laudable cause, but in doing so, they have eliminated due process for any accused man on college campus, which brings us to you, Grant, and this ridiculous situation where for a couple of moments, which you then rectified with the woman with whom you were having consensual intercourse. You have been deemed a sexual predator, who was suspended from the university, and now you cannot go to another university because of this label. [Fox News, The Kelly File, 4/22/16]
Kelly: “What Is It About The Administration … That They Are Ready To Throw Young College-Aged Men Out The Door With No Thought To What Their Rights Are.” Kelly castigated “new rules ordered by the Obama administration,” asking, “What is it about the administration or some who are so committed to protecting them that they are ready to throw young college-aged men out the door with no thought to what their rights are?” From the June 2015 edition of Fox News’ The Kelly File:
MEGYN KELLY (HOST): Picture this. A young man is attending one of the country's elite schools, Amherst College in Massachusetts. A young woman accuses him of sexual assault for an incident that occurred nearly two years earlier. He was drunk on the night in question but denies any sexual assault. Now the school opens a case against him. It is a kind of trial -- his college education, his reputation, his future is on the line -- except unlike in a court of law he has untenured faculty sitting at his jury, three of them.
KELLY: And it was all made possible by new rules ordered by the Obama administration two years ago, which to this very moment mean this can happen to virtually any male on any campus at any time.
KELLY: However, what is it about the administration or some who are so committed to protecting them that they are ready to throw young college-aged men out the door with no thought to what their rights are, to what their future is like -- innocent men in some cases? [Fox News, The Kelly File, 6/16/15]
Kelly Promotes Falsehoods About Planned Parenthood And Slams Efforts To Expand Reproductive Rights
Kelly Defended Anti-Planned Parenthood Smear Videos With Blatant Falsehoods. Kelly defended former Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina's much-debunked claims that those who watched deceptively edited smear videos from the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) would see "a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain." Kelly conceded on the November 30 edition of The Kelly File that Fiorina "made a claim ... that was a bridge too far" by "sort of meld[ing] two different sets of videos,” but added, "In Fiorina's defense, she did not see on those tapes, because it didn't exist, the live fetus having its organs harvested. The reason the fetus wasn't alive is because it had just been killed by a Planned Parenthood doctor." In reality, none of the videos released by CMP shows an abortion procedure, a fact even CMP leader David Daleiden admits. CMP did misleadingly insert in one of its videos an unrelated image from a woman's stillbirth and a separate undated, unsourced video from an unknown miscarriage. Neither of the inserted materials had any connection to Planned Parenthood nor abortion procedures. [Media Matters, 12/1/15]
Kelly: The "Feminist Movement Goes Wrong" With Pro-Choice Platform. Kelly has previously asserted that the “feminist movement goes wrong” with its pro-choice platform, calling it “alienating.” From the February 8 edition of Fox News’ The Kelly File:
MEGYN KELLY (HOST): You tell me whether I'm wrong. This is where the feminist movement goes wrong. Why does pro-choice or anti-abortion, whatever, why does that have to be part of the feminist platform? You know how alienating that is? Half of the women disagree. Half the women in this country are pro-life, half are pro-choice. If you make that a part of the platform, you -- you're doing what Gloria [Steinem's] doing, alienating half of the American population, the female population. [Fox News, The Kelly File, 2/8/16]
Kelly: “Some Women Abused" Late-Term Abortions. Kelly claimed that a proposed Senate bill that would have prohibited burdensome state restrictions on abortion would "open the door on late-term abortions." On the July 15, 2014, edition of The Kelly File, Kelly asserted that "some women abused" the right “and would get a doctor to say, yes, her health requires a late-term abortion.” Kelly invoked the case of Dr. George Tiller, a physician who was killed for providing abortions, saying, "He was providing late-term abortions based on health concerns, when you had a viable fetus, a baby, growing in the third trimester" before he was killed, and "no one really wants to return to those days." [Fox News, The Kelly File, 7/15/14]
Kelly Mocked Sandra Fluke’s Advocacy For Greater Contraception Access. Kelly mocked law student Sandra Fluke, on the June 30, 2014, edition of The O’Reilly Factor for advocating for greater access to contraception, claiming that women like her “started saying, ‘I’m entitled. Oh my God, I never realized how victimized I was all those years when I was paying for [birth control] on my own.’” Kelly defended Hobby Lobby's challenge to the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) contraception mandate, calling the mandate part of a "war on the religious right." [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 6/30/14]
Kelly Did Not Correct A Fox Analyst Who Claimed ACA Contraception Mandate Covers “Euthanasia.” Kelly did not correct nor disagree with Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano when he appeared on the March 24, 2014, edition of The Kelly File and asserted that the ACA’s contraception mandate “means contraception, euthanasia, and abortion.” In fact the preventative coverage includes "FDA approved contraceptives," and "abortion coverage is specifically banned from being required as part of the essential benefits package. [Media Matters, 3/24/14]
Kelly Claimed The Gender Pay Gap Is A “Meme”
Kelly Called The Gender Pay Gap A “Meme.” Kelly asserted that the gender pay gap was a “meme,” stating that “feminists” think you’re “anti-woman if you question that meme about equal pay” during the April 4, 2014, edition of Fox News’ The Kelly File. [Fox News, The Kelly File, 4/4/14]
Kelly Also Has A Record Of Making Out Of Touch Comments Regarding Race And LGBT Issues
Kelly: "Santa Just Is White" And "Just Because It Makes You Feel Uncomfortable Doesn't Mean It Has To Change." During the December 11, 2013, edition of her show Kelly insisted that Jesus and Santa Claus were "white," brushing past Fox host Jedediah Bila's suggestion that a non-white Santa Claus makes non-white kids feel included in holiday celebrations. Kelly continued, “Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change,” adding, “Jesus was a white man too.” [Fox News, The Kelly File, 12/11/13]
Kelly Warned That Obama Planned To Force Communities That Are "Too White [And] Too Privileged" To Embrace Diversity. Kelly warned that the Obama administration plans to force communities that are "too white [and] too privileged" to embrace diversity "whether the communities want it or not." From the June 11, 2015 edition of Fox News’ The Kelly File:
MEGYN KELLY (HOST): They don't want, quote, “unequal neighborhoods.” Unequal neighborhoods. They think too many communities are too white, too privileged, with too many big McMansions. And they want to diversify the communities whether the communities want it or not. [Fox News, The Kelly File, 6/11/15]
Kelly Called Protesters In Missouri "Angry Black Students." Kelly referred to students protesting over racial issues at the University of Missouri as “a small group of angry black students.” From the November 11, 2015 edition of Fox News’ The Kelly File:
MEGYN KELLY (HOST): Breaking tonight, new evidence that what started with a campus protest in Missouri may be spreading to more colleges and universities as small groups of students use complaints about race and diversity in a big play to rewrite the rules for everyone. And now this is becoming an issue for the 2016 race for the White House
KELLY: It started with a remarkable series of events at the University of Missouri. In a period of roughly 72 hours, a small group of angry black students managed to force the resignation of the two highest ranking officials at that school, complaining they did not show enough concern about racial issues at the school, including the self-defense shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson last winter. [Fox News, The Kelly File, 11/11/15]
Kelly And Bill O’Reilly Mocked And Laughed At A Transgender Inmate’s Appearance. Kelly and Bill O’Reilly mocked a transgender inmate’s appearance and repeatedly misgendered her. Kelly laughed at O’Reilly’s criticism of the inmate’s looks, adding that she “bet[s] he looks pretty good” being “in a male prison.” She continued, “The surgery hasn’t been performed yet. … He only has breasts and the hair now.” From the January 11, 2013 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor:
BILL O'REILLY (HOST): My question is, in the promo, couldn't they do a better job for a million bucks than this guy? Look, there he is. For a million you figure he might look like Annette Funicello or somebody. I don't know.
MEGYN KELLY: Listen, let's not forget.
KELLY: He's in a male prison.
O'REILLY: All right, but I don't think he's in any danger --
KELLY: I bet he looks pretty good.
O'REILLY: No. Even in a male prison, he doesn't. But for a million bucks, that's what we get? I don't know. All right.
KELLY: The surgery hasn't been performed yet, Bill.
O'REILLY: It hasn't.
KELLY: He only has breasts and the hair now.
O'REILLY: I think that might be a little bit too much information. [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 1/11/13]
Kelly: Accepting Transgender Children Causes "Confusion" For Other Students. After a Texas school reportedly fired two staff members for refusing to accept a transgender boy as a boy, Kelly questioned on the November 9 edition of her show whether there was “any consideration given to the confusion this was going to cause the rest of the children.” Kelly continuously misgendered the child throughout the segment, asking, “with all sympathy and empathy for that child and what she is going through, was there no consideration given to what this would put the other children through?” [Fox News, The Kelly File, 11/9/15]
Kelly Misgendered A Transgender Prison Inmate And Trivialized Her Plea For Necessary Medical Treatment. Kelly repeatedly and inaccurately referred to a transgender inmate as a male on the April 4, 2013, edition of America Live. Kelly also suggested that taxpayers shouldn’t be required to cover the costs of her “elective surgery,” and mocked the suggestion that the inmate should be housed with other female inmates, lamenting that she would get “a get-out-of-male-prison-free card.” Transgender inmates face high rates of sexual assault and violence when not placed in appropriate facilities. [Media Matters, 4/4/13]