Fox News host Megyn Kelly has built a reputation as someone who shoots straight and doesn’t take anything less than the full story from her interviewees. There are plenty of Fox News clips to support this fame, and the star herself hasn’t been shy about asserting it. Commenting on why Hillary Clinton hasn’t agreed to sit down with her, Kelly said, “Am I really that scary? I’m a tough interviewer when it comes to these politicians, for sure. But how can she say she deserves George Washington’s job and not sit with me?”
Now Kelly’s own level of candor and openness are nearing a big test. Her memoir, “Settle for More,” (HarperCollins) is due out on Nov. 15. During an interview special in May with Donald Trump, Kelly promised that the book would feature the first full-on discussion of her torment at the hands of a manipulative and sexist Donald Trump, who bombarded her on Twitter and elsewhere many times following the Aug. 6, 2015, Republican primary debate on Fox News. How Kelly could justify waiting until after the presidential election to tell this story about Trump is something that Kelly and Fox News failed to address with the Erik Wemple Blog.
The other big wrinkle for “Settle for More” played out over the summer, as a report by New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman claimed that Kelly was among those who told investigators from New York City law firm Paul, Weiss that now-former Fox News chief Roger Ailes had harassed her about a decade ago, before she became the network’s biggest star. That’s about as much as we know about the situation. Clearly that revelation — and the many other accounts from women under Ailes’s supervision — combined to oust the 76-year-old Ailes from the company.
Will “Settle for More” have more on the Kelly-Ailes relationship? “As the book is embargoed we have no comment at this time,” wrote HarperCollins’ Joanna Pinsker in an email today to the Erik Wemple Blog. HarperCollins is a corporate cousin of Fox News. As to whether the publishing schedule would allow for insertion of this material, the Wall Street Journal earlier this month noted that her manuscript was due in late spring, leaving perhaps a window to include details on her difficulties with Ailes.
If Fox News permits such a thing, that is.
The sexual harassment suit filed on Aug. 22 by Fox News host Andrea Tantaros has yielded details on just how much say-so Fox News executives wield over the book projects of its hosts. Tantaros’s beef with the network involves her own book — “Tied Up in Knots: How Getting What We Wanted Made Women Miserable” — and in a motion earlier this week, Fox News attached various “book guidelines” bearing on Fox News “performers.” They are totalitarian.
Here’s a quick rundown of their scope:
• You can’t write a book at all if Fox News determines that a book isn’t in the “best interest” of Fox News (that part’s in all-caps);
• You must “first” seek the network’s approval before even negotiating a book deal — and you have to give HarperCollins a shot at bidding on it;
• Fox News gets 10 percent of net profits after the advance is earned out;
• You have to submit a written outline of the book, including the title, before passing it along to the publisher;
• You are “required to submit lo Fox News in writing a schedule for the days and times when [you] will write and otherwise work on the book.”
Other requirements relate to promotion of the book on Fox News, the obligations of Fox News “opinion makers” and straight-up news reporters to stay in their lanes in their books and a dictate that promotional appearances “shall never include appearances on CNN, HLN, CNBC or MSNBC.” There are more, too. In the motion itself, Fox News noted that Tantaros “never submitted a manuscript of the book to Fox News for approval.”
The gist here? Books by Fox News personnel aren’t too personal — they’re products of Fox News to a significant degree. The No. 1 cable news network isn’t an island in this respect; TV networks, as a general rule, want to know what their talent are writing in their books.
The approval gantlet may well explain why someone like former host Gretchen Carlson would include the following line in her book, “Getting Real”: “Special thanks to Fox News CEO and chairman of the board Roger Ailes for continuing to believe in me and giving me the opportunity to do what I love every day” — and then turn around and sue the man for allegedly objectifying and demoting her.
No one, however, was expecting an accountability bomb out of Carlson when her book came out in 2015. Everyone will expect — or at least want — that stuff out of Kelly. A safe bet is that there’ll be no index entries for “Roger Ailes, sexual harassment.” Here’s hoping that chapter on Trump packs a wallop.