Megyn Kelly: A Case Study
Up until August 2015, a lot of people didn’t really know Megyn Kelly’s name. She first came into light as being one of the commentators on the first 2016 Republican Presidential Debate. Being only one of three commentators wasn’t a big deal. It was when she asked Donald Trump about his attitude toward women that put her in the spotlight. From that moment on, she’s been branded with one of the most memorable moments of the 2016 Election. Although that’s what has put her in the public’s attention, she has done so much more in her career. To just identify her by that one moment in her career, would be an injustice to her. Kelly uses her role as a broadcast journalist to shine light upon issues regarding women. She discusses controversial issues and doesn’t stop pressing her interviewees until she gets answers. That in itself makes her a strong leader.
Although Kelly is not a feminist, she has frequently spoken up for women on broadcasts. Even though her moment with Donald Trump is quite significant in defining her as a leader or role model, she started her fight long before then. Throughout her career, she has worked to establish her voice in the world of journalism. She has worked to have her voice heard. Her battle to even become a journalist is admirable, because she never gave up on her dream—even after years of working in another field. Her fierce interviewing skills help her to be able to get answers that people want, and when they misspeak or say something that is not true or relevant, she interrupts and corrects them. Much like the work of Nancy Grace and Barbara Walters, Kelly gets serious with the issues. She discusses many difficult things, but her interviews are always full of detailed content that gets the stories told.
After Kelly graduated high school, she attended Syracuse University. She wanted to go into Public Communications, but wasn’t accepted into the program. Instead, Kelly decided to try her hand at Political Science. In 1992, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. She went on to attend Albany Law School and planned on becoming a prosecutor for the district attorney’s office. However, she found herself in Chicago, working for Bickel and Brewer, a law firm, as an associate (“Megyn Kelly”). After her marriage to pain physician Dan Kendall in 2001, she began working as a corporate litigator for Jones Day, an internationally devised law firm, in its Chicago office. It wasn’t until Kelly moved to Washington, D.C. for her husband’s job that she realized she despised her job as a litigator. She knew her real dream was to be a journalist. Instead of simply sending in resumes to anyone that would take them, Kelly took it upon herself to record a news demo and call news stations to get her name, and her work, out there for people to see (“Megyn Kelly”). Finally, she was hired as a freelance reporter for a local D.C. TV news station. That opportunity led her to covering the 2004 Election. The experience mixed her two passions—political science and journalism. Later that year, she transitioned to working at FOX News, her first national news job. In 2006, she was moved to FOX News’s New York station, where she did Kelly’s Court, a show where she mixed her political science knowledge with journalism. In that time, she’d gotten divorced and remarried; she married novelist Douglas Brunt, with whom she has three kids. Two years later, FOX News had Kelly anchor America Live. The new show gave her the opportunity to establish herself as a journalist. The opportunity proved to be a lifechanging experience for Kelly. In establishing herself, FOX was impressed with her skills; Kelly could interrogate unlike any other news anchor. She had developed a fierceness that hadn’t been seen from a female news anchor. After doing that show for three years, FOX News gave Kelly her own show: The Kelly File, which airs every weeknight (“Megyn Kelly”).
On her show, Kelly shoots question after question. She refuses to take any disrespect from anyone. When people, particularly men, talk over her during her show, she politely attempts to speak over them until she’s able to be heard. Most people know Kelly for her mediation of the first Republican Debate of the 2016 Election, where Trump got offended by her ‘unfair’ questioning (Wattles, Stelter). While that was quite an important moment in her career, it’s not as dominating as her recent interview with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. The interview, which took place this past October, was a very lively interview between the two. In the interview, Gingrich claimed that Kelly was ‘fascinated with sex’ (Sinderbrand). For a moment, she was stunned. The look of pure surprise on her face clearly shows her surprise by the comment. Kelly then responded that she was not, but she was fascinated by ‘the protection of women’ (Sinderbrand). Gingrich continues bombarding Kelly with accusations, ranting about having President Bill Clinton back in the East Wing, how he’s a ‘predator’ (Sinderbrand). Over and over again, Kelly tried to interject that she has discussed that on a previous episode of The Kelly File, but Gingrich is on such a tangent, he doesn’t stop. Upon realizing this, Kelly simply stops; she doesn’t fight or shout. She straightens her posture, says, “He’s not on the ticket.” Then, to top the fiery interview off, Kelly confidently says, “…you can take your anger issues and spend some time working on them, Mr. Speaker. Thanks for being here” (Sinderbrand). The interview itself may simply look like a hissy fit, but it is so much more than that. In the brief, less than two-minute interaction of an interview, Kelly speaks out for women and points out that President Clinton was not on the ticket—his wife was—and he would just be a husband in the White House, which is something that had been quite controversial during the election. This moment is monumental, because a woman stood up to a former Speaker of the House, a man of power, on national, live television. More so than that, she was telling him that on a predominately Republican news station. Telling a conservative to work on his anger issues on live television on a Republican station is a very bold move, especially for a woman to do.
The interview is intense. It is a perfect depiction of what Kelly does on her show. It shows how she gracefully speaks up against injustices. She’s known for using her show to get the tough questions answered, no matter what cost. On the page with Sinderbrand’s article, she had posted a few tweets. They claim that Newt ‘won’ the battle against Kelly, but that doesn’t seem likely. Gingrich was corrected; his interview ended with a snide comment from Kelly. She let him say his share, but she countered him at every point he made—especially when they were incorrect points. Her condescending tone throughout the interview was steady, despite showing that initial moment of surprise when he made the accusation about her ‘fascination with sex’ (Sinderbrand). Kelly knows that men are dominating the field of broadcast journalism and that they are a rather large part of politics; they always have been, yet she doesn’t let that stop her. Whether it was against Gingrich or Trump, she made it clear that she would not back down from a fight. In both situations, she stood up for women and made a point to say that she was doing so. Unlike other women in her field, she focuses on the political aspect and she does it aggressively. She fights the stereotype that women in media are just pretty faces, because she’s got the brains and the willpower to defy the stereotype. Kelly has even acknowledged the gender gap in journalism by saying, “My fellow female journalists in particular are held to a different standard than our male counterparts. Tough questioning from a woman often leads to charges that she’s ‘shrill’” (Cotliar, Hamm). Yet she asks tough questions anyway. In the interview with Gingrich, she stood her ground and continued to ask the tough questions, because she needed and wanted answers. Had she been a male journalist, Gingrich probably would’ve listened to her. Of course, had she been a male journalist, the odds of her fighting for women on a Republican news station are a bit slim. Kelly has also mentioned that her husband and boss, both male supporters of her (Coltiar, Hamm). She has a support system, which is always a good thing to have—particularly because she’s a broadcast journalist who doesn’t back down from a fight.
Her fearlessness in her interviews, and especially in the interview against Gingrich, could be credited as a trait from her mother. Kelly’s father passed away when she was in high school. Her mother was raising three kids in school, two of which were in college, and she succeeded in getting by on what little income she had. Her mother is a motivator for her. If it wasn’t her mother that has influenced her incredibly powerful interviewing skills, it could be the bullying she endured in her childhood (Dickinson). Whatever the cause, whatever the motivation, Kelly has clearly used it to her advantage. She uses her interviewees’ displeasure as fuel for her interviews. When they attempt to knock her down, to silence her, she doesn’t quiet down. If she does, like she did in the interview with Gingrich, she speaks up after the interviewee is finished with a voice ten times louder, with a revived tone. Perhaps writing about it isn’t as effective, but watching her as she goes through her interviews is incredibly captivating. Her relentlessness is what makes them stand out, because they’re unlike any other journalist. Nancy Grace and Barbara Walters are two broadcast journalists that come to mind when thinking of women in journalism. Nancy Grace was tough, but she was just loud and obnoxious. Barbara Walters got her answers to questions by being strong in her questioning, but she also had an elegance about her. Combine those two women and you have an insight into what Kelly does.
She’s got the fierceness of Grace with the class of Walters. That will be her legacy. She will be known as the woman who countered Donald Trump, but she will also be known as an intelligent, determined journalist who knew how to get the job done. In doing so, she will be known for standing up for injustices, standing up for women. She was the voice of women in the 2016 Presidential Election. She will be known for interviewing some of the most powerful men in the country—and getting results in those interviews. Her style is a defining moment for women in journalism, because it shows that women can be strong, independent thinkers and that they can challenge even the most powerful men. Kelly is a strong female leader, because she uses her role as a broadcast journalist to shine light upon major political issues that most women in media wouldn’t go near. She discusses controversial issues and doesn’t stop pressing her interviewees until she gets answers of substance. Even though she may come off as a bit harsh, she is a brilliant journalist who uses her position to its fullest potential. By doing so, she’s taking another step to narrow the gender gap in journalism, because as long as Megyn Kelly is working as a journalist, there will be someone to put up a fight for women in the news.
Cotliar, Sharon, and Liza Hamm. “The Change Makers.” Good Housekeeping, Nov. 2015, pp. 42–53. Galileo, eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/detail/detail?sid=964c10ed-0cbc41e49704bcdcf934dffd%40sessionmgr4007&vid=8&hid=4105&bdata=jnnpdgu9zwrzlwxpdmu%
Dickinson, Ben. “How Fox’s Megyn Kelly Got to the Top, and Why She’s Probably There to Stay.” ELLE, Hearst Communications, Inc., 29 Mar. 2016, www.elle.com/culture/careerpolitics/interviews/a12652/megyn-kelly-profile/.
“Megyn Kelly.” Bio.com, A&E Networks Television, www.biography.com/people/megyn-kelly-041216.
Sinderbrand, Rebecca. “’You Are Fascinated with Sex’: That Megyn Kelly-Newt Gingrich Showdown Was One for the Ages.” Washington Post, The Washington Post, 26 Oct. 2016, www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/10/25/you-are-fascinated-with– sex-that-megyn-kelly-newt-gingrich-showdown-was-one-for-the-ages/.
Wattles, Jackie, and Brian Stelter. “Megyn Kelly: I Didn’t ‘Attack’ Trump at the GOP Debate.” CNNMoney, Cable News Network, 9 Aug. 2015, money.cnn.com/2015/08/09/media/megyn-kelly-donald-trump/.
“Donald Trump Tries to Defend His Offensive Rhetoric on Women,” director. New Republic,2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=cy0wxd9g_dg.
“Megyn Kelly.” Fox News, FOX News Network, www.foxnews.com/person/k/megynkelly.html.
Peretz, Evgenia. “Blowhards, Beware: Megyn Kelly Will Slay You Now.” The Hive, Condé Nast, 4 Jan. 2016, www.vanityfair.com/news/2015/12/megyn-kelly-fox-news-cover -story.
Rutenberg, Jim. “The Megyn Kelly Moment.” The New York Times, 21 Jan. 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/25/magazine/the-megyn-kelly-moment.html
Setoodeh, Ramin. “Megyn Kelly.” Variety, vol. 331, no. 11, 5 Apr. 2016, Galileo, eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/detail/detail?vid=14&sid=964c10ed-0cbc-41e4-9704bcdcf934dffd%40sessionmgr4007&hid=4105&bdata=jnnpdgu9zwrzlwxpdmu%3d#an=14312326&db=f3h, pp. 54–55.
This assignment was from my first semester at Agnes Scott. It allows my progression of writing from my first semester to my most recent, which is something I want seen on my portfolio. I only edited the post by removing a photo that didn’t have proper copyright.