This was supposed to be the Year of the Woman. Instead, 2016 has shaped up to be the Year of Powerful Men and the Women They Demeaned, Harassed or Worse. The charges against Bill Cosby, the fall of Fox’s Roger Ailes and the rise of President-elect Donald Trump all contributed to that distinction.
It’s no surprise, then, that Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly’s new book, “Settle for More,” gives a behind-the-scenes look at her dealings with two of the most influential men in media and politics – Ailes and Trump.
Kelly’s book, released Tuesday, is meant to be an uplifting memoir about her impressive rise from middle-class Syracuse, N.Y., girl to one of America’s most successful news anchors. Yet it’s her painful and disturbing account of what it means to be a high-profile female journalist in the age of Fox News, Twitter and Trump that resonates.
Kelly, 45, writes that she became the target of Trump’s “relentless” personal attacks in 2015 after she reported that his second wife, Ivana, testified in divorce proceedings that he raped her (an accusation later retracted).
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In retelling her story, Kelly struggles with reconciling her own experiences, negative and positive, with the narratives of right-wing culture that dominate Fox News.
Though she was hurt by Trump and other bullies in her past – competitive women at Fox, Ivy League snobs in her early law career, mean girls in middle school – Kelly makes it clear that she’s no victim.
Our politically correct culture has created a “cupcake nation” of young people, writes Kelly, who need “safe spaces,” making them unable to deal with adversity like she has.
The only time she comes off as the victim is when she uses the tired Fox rhetoric of being misunderstood and attacked by the mainstream media. Yet Fox, the top-rated cable news network, is the mainstream media.
And though she’s fought for her rights as a woman and is concerned about preserving her daughter’s self-worth when asked by the child what a “bimbo” is, Kelly says she’s not a “feminist” because feminists are “emasculating.”
It’s a conditional self-awareness, present when she’s addressing her personal life or the way in which she was underestimated as just another “dumb blond.” But when she writes about her role at Fox, that personal awareness vanishes behind the tired gripes of the right about liberal values that we’ve grown accustomed to over a decade or more of brutally partisan media.
Kelly claims that she was never politically minded, citing old journal entries in which she questioned her party affiliation.
She joined Fox in 2005 after tiring of her career path as a litigator and quickly impressed her bosses with a hardcore work ethic. Ailes was among them, and he was instrumental in Kelly’s ascent at the network.
In “Settle for More,” Kelly writes candidly about the deception she felt when her colleague Bill O'Reilly interviewed Trump during his attacks on Kelly, yet sidestepped asking the candidate tough questions about his barrage of insults and tweets.
Kelly writes that she was hurt, and even cried, though you would have never known it from the unflappable expression on her face when she returned from a vacation to do her show and later reconciled with Trump in a rather uneventful interview.
Her cool demeanor was described by Bill Ayers, whom Kelly took to task on the run-up to Obama’s 2008 White House bid, as “a Cyborg created in the basement of Fox News. She’s striking, but very metallic, very cold.”
But if you believe her admissions in the book, Kelly is a mix of many emotions, they’re just wrapped in a more well-groomed package than most.