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Opinion Megyn Kelly: ‘Fox was not without sin’ in 2016 campaign coverage

Watch the Erik Wemple Blog's Dec. 14, 2017 phone interview with Megyn Kelly, who was a FOX News anchor at the time. (Video: Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

In the tour for her new book “Settle For More,” Fox News host Megyn Kelly has spoken at length about a certain progression over her career. After claiming that she was sexually harassed in the mid-2000s by Fox News chief Roger Ailes, Kelly reported the incidents to a supervisor and then put her head down. When the matter arose again this past summer after former host Gretchen Carlson sued Ailes for sexual harassment, Kelly spoke up forcefully in a review conducted by the prominent law firm Paul Weiss — a review that resulted in the ouster of Ailes.

“I worked my tail off for the next ten years. I established myself as a serious person. I built my own power,” writes Kelly in “Settle for More.” “And when the allegations about Roger hit, I used it.”

That same assertive Megyn Kelly last Wednesday answered questions from the Erik Wemple Blog about “Settle for More” and adjacent topics, including the apparent bidding war for her services. “I do feel fortunate to have some great options,” she told this blog, though she professed little confidence in the state of reporting on her next step. “I’ve been just dismayed to see these reports which are completely just based on speculation or based on, I don’t know, maybe some random unnamed network executive someplace who wants to see his alleged information in the paper.” Her Fox News contract expires next year.

Wherever Kelly lands, she wants to be home with her three children and husband, Doug Brunt, during the time she’s now gearing up for polemical showdowns on her 9 p.m. show, “The Kelly File.” “I want to see my kids for dinner, I want to put them down at night, I want to see their soccer games after school,” she says.

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The interview covered a range of stuff, including Kelly’s “America’s Newsroom” collaboration with Fox News host Bill Hemmer; her mother, Linda; diversity on the staff of “The Kelly File”; Fox News and women’s legs; her support for new prime-time host Tucker Carlson; her assessment of Fox News’s campaign coverage; and a lot more. The interview preceded news that Kelly’s executive producer, Tom Lowell, would be leaving his role for a promotion to Fox News VP and managing editor of news.

One note before rolling out the transcription: Over the years this blog has published laudatory posts on Kelly as well as a number of sharply critical ones. TV news personalities, even when peddling books, don’t always enjoy sitting for a no-holds-barred session with a proven critic, but Kelly was over-the-top generous with her time and patient with our inquiries.

On Dec. 14, 2017, the Erik Wemple Blog conducted a phone interview with Megyn Kelly, who was then a FOX News anchor. This is part of their conversation. (Video: Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

Here’s the Q&A (with some edits for length and clarity):

ERIK WEMPLE BLOG: How’s it feel to be in the midst of a big network bidding war, which is what I understand is going on?

MEGYN KELLY: Listen, without confirming or denying the premise of your statement, I’ll say this: I do feel fortunate to have some great options. I feel humbled by the fact that there’s any interest in me at all, Erik. I don’t see myself as some television star, I see myself as a girl from Albany. So it’s a great business; it’s a dream job. And I’m very glad that I have chance to work here, whether it’s at Fox or another channel. Hard to get a job in TV news, so I haven’t lost sight of that.

EWB: We’ve seen a lot of reports, one that there’s a bidding war, another that there isn’t. Any advice on where to put the hot and cold on those two?

KELLY: No, I don’t want to weigh in on it. I’ve been dismayed to see these reports and so many from reporters who have no idea about the facts, you know? And I’ve just tried to hold my fire because it’s nobody’s business and it’s not appropriate for public discussion. You know? I mean, what happened in my case is my boss, Lachlan Murdoch, came to me with a generous offer and I was honest with him and said, “I need some time to think it over.” It was long in advance of the date my contract expired and I just, you know, a lot has changed since I last signed with Fox and I needed to give it the thought and consideration it deserved and he was very kind about that and gave me permission to see what was out there so I could check out the landscape knowingly, as opposed to blindly. I could evaluate his offer, I should say, knowingly and not blindly. And now I’ve done that and now I’m going to take some time and give it the thought and consideration it deserves.

But I’ve been just dismayed to see these reports which are completely just based on speculation or based on, I don’t know, maybe some random unnamed network executive someplace who wants to see his alleged information in the paper, but as I say, don’t believe a thing unless you hear from me directly because there’s a lot of bad info going on out there.

EWB: You write that your heart aches when you get too deep into work stuff — and you note that your family is programmed to expect to see less of you during prime campaign season. Is there anything that you’re seeking in either your new contract at Fox News or in a contract at a competitor organization that would bring yet greater balance to your life?

KELLY: Oh, my next deal is all about greater balance. I mean, that’s — I had professional success, right? Thankfully. And I feel like I’m at a level in my business where I’ve established myself as a professional. And the one thing I haven’t managed to do is find a way to achieve a better balance. You know, it started off fine, this particular job and my family situation because my three little ones were very small when I started “The Kelly File.” They were 3, 2 and newborn. So, you know, I don’t know if you have kids, but you spend the day at home with them.

EWB: I have a 10 and I have a 13.

KELLY: Yeah, so you know how that goes. You can see them all day. But then they start school and now two out of my three and soon three out of my three are going to be in school from 8 a.m. in the morning till 3:30 p.m. So that’s not good enough, that’s when I leave for Fox. And I need to do better.

EWB: You write in the book that you get to go to daytime school events. It seems as though, you know, you left the legal profession, you became famous, you make a lot of money and you get to go to your kids’ daytime school events: How is that not a win-win-win and what more would you be seeking on the balance front?

KELLY: Yeah, well it is a win but it isn’t good enough. I want to see my kids for dinner, I want to put them down at night, I want to see their soccer games after school. I want to get to know the parents who take their kids to some of these events, and not all the time. We all feel that to some extent, but my problem in my current role is I see them in the morning and . . . I take them to school but unless there’s a school event that I can attend, I might not see them at all for the rest of the day until they’re sleeping in their beds at night.

EWB: Do they call you at work while you’re trying to get ready for “The Kelly File”?

KELLY: Yeah, we talk on the phone, so listen: It’s not that I don’t understand working parents make sacrifices; they all do, whether they’re TV anchors or not. It’s just a question of what works for any given individual and all I’m saying and I’ve said it publicly is that this particular balance that I’ve struck right now is not good enough for me. I will tell you that Fox has always been good about working things like that out. And I don’t have any doubt that they’d be good to me on that front here too, so that’s one of the things we’ll figure out before I have to make up my mind.

EWB: Sticking with the family theme, you talk in the book about how your mom — you never discussed [with her] really that much about the bullying you sustained around seventh grade. Did your mom learn new things about you through “Settle for More”?

KELLY: She did; she was not happy with me when she saw the extent of that bullying. Every time I talk to her, she says, “Why didn’t you tell me, why didn’t you tell me? I would have given those girls what for.” You know, she’s still a protector. But I tell her the truth, which is, I was ashamed. I was ashamed. I was taking it as a measure of myself; I thought it was saying something about me, as opposed to just something about the bullies. I just didn’t have the emotional maturity to understand that wasn’t the case. So anyway, my mom is sweet and she wants to give somebody what’s for to this day. So she learned a lot on that and she learned a lot about the dust-up with Donald Trump from the book. I talked to my mom about it as it was going on — she was among the few people whose advice I did seek in handling that whole thing. But unless you lived in my apartment and were over the age of 40, you didn’t get the daily download. There was only one person who I shared everything with, and that was my husband. So my mom was, I think, pretty shocked to hear the extent of it.

EWB: As much praise as your mother and late father and many other people get in the book, hard work gets a lot of praise, too. And your advice for women who hit the glass ceiling is to work harder and harder. And solid though that advice is, there are some structural impediments, as I noted in a blog post a few weeks back. There was a study talking about how women don’t get a chance, don’t get mentorships — something that goes beyond their work ethic. Is this too simple or do you think it’s the best advice and the best solution at this point in time?

KELLY: No, what you said is 100 percent true, and there’s no question that to some extent there are structural disadvantages built in, not just for women but for other minority groups who don’t hold power at the executive level either at the company or in the industry. My position is not just “Oh, okay, anyone can overcome those.” It’s just as we work to get more women and people in minority groups at higher levels in positions of power, what are our options? And in my experience, as a person who’s been in the professional world for some 25 years now, my experience is that the best core solution, the best solution for us as we change the structure, is to power through with great work product. Because in my experience, the more you lecture those running the companies on how they need to give more breaks to women or other minority groups and be more open-minded to their work products and perhaps question themselves on a double standard, the more some of those people shut down to your messaging. I’m not saying it’s right; I’m just saying you can very easily get labeled as someone who sees everything through a prism of race or gender or what have you. So we have to walk a fine line. It’s sad but it’s the truth. So in my own circumstances, and trust me when I tell you I’ve experienced plenty of sexism in the workplace, but I’ve nevertheless managed to make it to the top in two different industries, and so for me, what I’m saying to other women is, “This is how I did it.”

EWB: You mentioned in one of your interviews, and this is part of the book, too — overcoming adversity, that children these days are becoming pampered, wusses or whatever. Parents are sheltering them from hardship and you cited the bullying you yourself experienced. But at the same time, Dan Savage talks about how bullying can push people toward suicide, and bullying is particularly acute for teens these days.

KELLY: 100 percent.

EWB: Are you saying that bullying can sort of be a good experience, one that fortifies you, or are you saying that the crackdown is worse than the problem these days?

KELLY: No, when I talk about Cupcake Nation on my show or in my book, it’s not about bullying at all, and in fact in the book you’ll see I argue that especially when it comes to young people, I believe an adult must intervene. You really have to. Kids just don’t have the emotional maturity to deal with it and it can be extremely damaging; it can be life-changing. So I see that as a special thing that people need to be very careful in how they handle bullying. . . . [At a Midwest university] they were literally telling the college students to call campus police if someone offended them. If somebody offended them! Now that’s taking it too far. Somebody saying something offensive to you, or insulting to you, is not pleasant, but it’s part of life. And my belief is we need to shore ourselves up, and our kids up and our younger generation up to understand how to deal with that unpleasant reality, because we won’t always be there to protect them. And you know, I for one want my own kids to know how to handle that.

I see it as this: I send my kids to school not only to learn how to read and write and do math, but also to develop socially. So if there’s a negative interaction between my child and another child, what I want to know is, how was it handled, what lessons came out of it and of course, is my child okay? And then I’ll talk to them after the fact, but Doug [Brunt] and I talk about this all the time. Those situations are not all bad because it’s an experience our kid had to navigate and now hopefully can fold into the memory bank so he or she has the skills the next time it happens. But if we jump in and try to protect them from it, it doesn’t build anything for them. It is an important distinction; I never say this about bullying, which I know firsthand can leave scars that do not heal.

EWB: One of the things you talk about in the book: In [media] interview after interview, you had to sort of credit Roger Ailes, but in the book you give a big nod to Bill Hemmer, who is also one of my favorite people on cable news. The takeaway I get is that as much as you appreciated Roger — he gave you those two maternity leaves, promotions during them, and I understand the full complexity that you mention with respect to Ailes. But here’s a guy Bill Hemmer — you tell the story in the book about how he sort of mentored you on how to handle breaking news alerts during your show as opposed to just handling more stable stories. How important was he and what exactly did he mean to you in terms of your ascension at Fox News?

KELLY: He had a huge role in my development because we were not only partners; we were in some respects mentor and mentee, me being the mentee. By the time I left that show, we had become more of a partnership. But when I started, I was as green as they come. I had never anchored a show before, other than to sit in a couple of times here and there on some substitute anchoring. But I’d never been a TV anchor before; I’d never been employed as a TV anchor. So, I mean, Hemmer is the ultimate gentleman. I have never seen him have anything but a kind word and a generous lens for people. If he gets frustrated or angry or upset, I have never seen it, and I have spent a lot of time with the guy.

EWB: So his whole persona on-air is not an act.

KELLY: Absolutely not. And I’ve seen him — on TV news, as you know, it can be stressful. Breaking news comes, throw out the rundown, it’s rolling thunder; things are firing at you; the rundown’s gone or the guest is gone or it’s dark air; you don’t know what’s happening. Bill used to call it “boot camp TV” what we were doing on “America’s Newsroom” and he was right. But, man, he’s unflappable. Sometimes that’s when you see [people’s] dark side, when the stress hits and they start yelling at people and they’re nasty. NEVER. I’ll give you an example, just of Bill Hemmer which sums up his personality. It was at my engagement party to Doug. Hemmer was there. Doug’s parents were there; they were 70 and 80, thereabouts. . . . They needed to leave. [Confusion arises over how they would get a ride] Hemmer steps in and he’s like, “I will get them a taxi.” So he takes Dr. and Mrs. Brunt out to the sidewalk, he hails them a taxi, he gets them into the taxi, he gives the address to the taxi driver, then he tells the taxi driver what radio station to put on because he thinks Dr. and Mrs. Brunt would enjoy their 10-minute ride more with this music in the background. Doug’s dad has since passed away but his mother still lives for Bill Hemmer.

EWB: I was interested to see the photographs in your book. And you have a photograph of your staff and it sprung a question for me: You do all kinds of aggressive coverage, including on race. That staffing picture looked pretty much white, although there could be a couple of minorities in there. Do you think that for as aggressive as you are on racial issues, that you could use more diversity on the staff?

KELLY: Well, I don’t know about the first part of your question. That’s not the reason. The reason to have more racial diversity on any team is because it’s helpful to have different perspectives on any issue. And I also believe that. It’s easier said than done, unfortunately. At Fox we started — this is one of Roger’s good legacies, the Ailes Apprentice Program, and that’s been pretty good about getting more people of color into the TV news ranks. But we don’t have enough, that’s just a fact. We don’t. And we can do better at that, just like most of the news networks can.

EWB: Do you have anyone who’s African American on the staff at this point?

KELLY: Not at the moment. Don’t hold me to that, Erik, because I’m probably forgetting somebody. Definitely we have some crew who work with me who are African American but . . . to be perfectly honest with you, I have never asked. We . . . have a couple of mixed-race people . . . I don’t know if they identify as mixed race or African American, so I don’t want to guess.

EWB: Obviously you know a lot about the whole New Black Panther issue, Philadelphia; you were famous for that. I didn’t see much mention in the book, but now, eight years later, a couple CNN pro-Trump commentators cited that incident sort of in the context of Trump talking about a rigged election. Do you think that’s a fair reading of the New Black Panther issue, sort of as grist for justifying Trump’s claims of the possibility of a rigged election?

KELLY: What do you mean, that guys like those New Black Panthers [inaudible] at the polls?

EWB: I believe Kayleigh McEnany said something to the effect that Trump “doesn’t want a scenario where there’s New Black Panthers outside with guns, essentially like intimidating people from coming into the polls.”

KELLY: That was not a widespread incident as far as we knew. That was a couple of rabble-rousers who showed up causing a bunch of nonsense at one Philadelphia polling station. I wouldn’t say you could extrapolate that to a general concern, especially because I don’t believe we saw it again in 2012. I believe it was these two guys trying to make a point in 2008; their point was made and I assume they understood the ramifications of it after the Department of Justice got involved.

EWB: Do you think that your pushing that incident is where people draw their memory from?

KELLY: Come on, Erik, next question.

EWB: No? I just wondered. I mean, you did scores of segments on it.

KELLY: You should take those scores of segments numbers with a huge grain of salt because that was some tabulation done by Media Matters that included teases. Teases!

EWB: This is an interesting part of who you are as sort of a public figure. At one point in your book, you address Trump’s allegation that, I made her who she is . . . And there was some commentary out there saying that this was a sexist thing on Trump’s part. You said you had a different reaction. I gotta say: If that’s not sexist, what is? A guy telling you that his abuse makes you more of a commodity . . .

KELLY: No, I’m not saying it wasn’t sexist. I’m just saying my reaction to it wasn’t, “Oh, what a sexist thing to say.” It was just, “how ironic.” The first thing I thought was, he wants credit for making my career when he is trying to destroy it. And he wants credit for making my career, when look at our relative advantages in life. I did not get a million-dollar or multimillion-dollar loan from my dad. I did not grow up with silver spoon in my mouth. In fact, I lost my dad at a young age and had to put myself through school. I didn’t have a lot of the advantages Donald Trump had but I had the most important ones you can get, which are loving parents who cared about me and helped me develop a sense of self. But it certainly wasn’t Donald Trump’s doing.

EWB: Absolutely.

KELLY: It wasn’t that I didn’t understand that that comment could be perceived as sexist. It’s just my own reaction was, “Wow, that’s ironic.”

EWB: “Settle For More” cycles through a lot of very interesting details about how your network dealt with the mercurial Trump throughout the presidential campaign. One thing I noted was that he continued to appear on the “O’Reilly Factor” and “Hannity” and “Fox & Friends” even as he was attacking you. Did you ever ask management to say, “Hey, no O’Reilly, no Hannity, no ‘Fox & Friends’ till you make a visit to ‘The Kelly File’?” Because this looked to me — speaking of sexism — like a sexist cabal among guys: Sean Hannity, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly. They were getting all these Trump interviews and you, who, I believe, is a much better interviewer, a much more penetrating journalist, would have made more news. Did you ever say, “Hey, why don’t we show some leadership here and don’t let Trump decide where he’s gonna go; we decide as a news network where he’s going to go, and I should be in that queue”?

KELLY: No, I didn’t. I didn’t feel it was my place to try to interfere with Trump’s appearances or other people’s shows. The only thing I didn’t want, was I didn’t want him attacking me on my own network. I thought that was a reasonable place for me to draw a line, personally. And I thought that what happens outside of “The Kelly File” is for someone else to deal with, not me. I understood the position that management was in and that my colleagues were in because he was the front-runner. He was very upset with me; there was of course no way he was going to come on with me. But what were they going to do: Ban the presidential front-runner from all of Fox News until he decided he’d sit with me? I wouldn’t have expected them to do that. I had my own battles to fight and I didn’t feel the need to take on additional ones like that one and I understood the position my company was in.

EWB: You have an interesting little paragraph in the book where you say that you continued to report on Trump — you and your staff tried your best to go down the middle and I think you were successful in that. It’s a very difficult thing to be attacked and to still give credit and to be fair in a situation like that. But there’s a paragraph where you said that some critics said you were being too tough on Trump. You said [in the book] something to the effect that “we merely stood out by comparison.” Period. So there’s an unfinished thought there, Ms. Kelly. By comparison to what?

KELLY: Well, I think that in particular in the primary season, very few people were offering any critical Trump coverage, virtually anywhere. It was stunning to me because I thought — and I’m not going to condemn my brethren in the news media specifically. I don’t want to call anybody out specifically — but what I’m saying is, we would look across the landscape to see whether anybody was meaningfully challenging him and we’d be a long time lookin’. For the reason I write in the book, because people were either entertained by him, didn’t perceive him as a serious candidate or were just enjoying the ratings that Trump brought. And in particular, some of these folks who put on his campaign rallies, Erik. His campaign rallies, not a policy speech, just rallies. Which we never would have done to Scott Walker or Hillary Clinton. Ever. And to me that seemed unfair to the other candidates and wrongheaded journalistically.

EWB: That analysis applies to colleagues at your own network, correct?

KELLY: Well, listen, Fox was not without sin in that department either. I can say that on “The Kelly File,” we did not do that. And listen, it was not the easiest thing to do because Trump rates. You pop up that campaign rally, you could let it roll for an hour and your ratings would shoot through the roof. Easy, done. Huge number. [inaudible] your average for the month.

EWB: While we’re talking about the other cable networks, I thought that [Jake] Tapper and Chris Cuomo and a couple of other people on CNN did a good job of pushing Trump from the very beginning. I’m not saying that they necessarily had enough shots at him as O’Reilly and Hannity did. was merciless on you, called you a horrible person, facilitator of racism so on and so forth. In August, a chain of events that started with a privacy suit closed the site. You’re big on legal stuff — how do you process all of this? Was there any schadenfreude within Megyn Kelly about the death of

KELLY: I honestly can tell you that just hearing you say that about Gawker is the first I’ve heard about their attacks on me. I know what happened with them and Hulk Hogan, but that’s the first I’ve heard about their attacks on me because I do tend to avoid that stuff like the plague because I do believe it is the plague. I studiously avoid the darkest places of the Internet. Sometimes you can’t avoid it because you’re doing a legitimate news search and something pops up, but I don’t breathe that stuff in because I think it’s a carcinogen.

EWB: Jon Stewart, he’s gone now from “The Daily Show,” and the departure has translated into less heat, less withering scrutiny of Fox News and CNN and MSNBC, to a lesser extent. They never seemed to miss a single contradiction in cable news. . . . Is that a form of accountability that the industry misses and needs?

KELLY: I write a lot about Jon Stewart in “Settle for More,” and I just sort of try to give an example of how I felt his attacks were often unfair. Because you can’t get into it; as a news person, you can’t spend all your time responding to a Comedy Central star. It’s not what we do. However, and I’ve said publicly before many times, I thought Stewart was hilarious, except when he was attacking me, so it’s one of those, There but for the grace of God. I do think that there’s absolutely a role for media critics and Stewart was special among them and did it in a way that was so intelligent and entertaining. I don’t know whether there will ever be another like him. And for whatever it’s worth, we actually have a good relationship. I write in the book we moved on, not friends exactly but not enemies either. I would say we’ve only become closer to friends since that date years ago. However, I think part of that discussion these days is driven by a belief on some level that Stewart could have brought Trump down or perhaps he could have shamed some of the media into doing a better job of covering him honestly. And I don’t think that’s true. I think if Stewart had been his full self during this whole election, we would have wound up with the exact same result. And that’s just the nature of the way our country is built. Stewart had so many fans, but I’d venture to say they weren’t in most of the counties that went red in this presidential election. They tend to be in this echo chamber where the people who love you listen and the people who don’t, don’t.

EWB: The litigation of Andrea Tantaros — Fox News was shown to have has some pretty strict book guidelines, and one of them requires 10 percent of net profits after your advance is earned out — that goes to the network. Does your contract include that provision? And everyone always has a book going — O’Reilly on manners, of all things, and Japan and Reagan; Bret Baier on Ike; Ainsley Earhardt on, I forgot, something or other.

KELLY: Children.

EWB: Children, right. Does the flogging of the books detract from news at Fox News? And this is an industry, isn’t it — a sub-industry? What’s your take on it?

KELLY: I don’t know — almost every journalist has written a book. It’s not just Fox News. You know, Jake Tapper, Anderson Cooper, you name it. I understand why you’re asking the question, because sometimes I look around cable news and it’s like you wonder whether you’re looking at anchors or authors. What is your primary role? I would say for me, I can tell you that HarperCollins certainly would have liked me to have pushed the book a lot before it came to sale. They really wanted me to get out there and start promoting it and I just didn’t feel comfortable doing that. So I mentioned it a couple of times. But for me, I felt uncomfortable. I said, ‘Look, when it’s out, I’ll promote it. I’ll promote the hell out of it.’ I have an obligation to try to get out there and sell it. And now I’ve done that. I feel like I’ve met my obligation to them. But I do think that, yeah, it can go on for a really long time and if it interferes in your viewers’ willingness to consume your show, because it’s supposed to be a straight news product or it’s supposed to be a news product of some sort, then it can be distracting.

EWB: On the timing . . . you told Anderson Cooper that you didn’t want to float the book before the election because you didn’t want to become the story.

KELLY: Well, I was the story; I didn’t want to become any more the story.

EWB: Well, that’s the point, I mean, I think that’s a very honest response. But you were going to be the story anyway: Why not do an Oct. 15 release date and give voters more information for a critical decision, than Nov. 15 and not give those voters that critical information? I still don’t understand.

KELLY: You have to understand that this isn’t just “Megyn Kelly, journalist, stumbles upon a news story.” This is “Megyn Kelly, human being, woman, mother, wife, finds herself in the middle of a news story in which her safety was in danger, her children’s safety was in danger,” and I have actual responsibilities to the people who live in my home to make sure I didn’t do anything to make our situation worse, and I took those very seriously. I did not want to do anything that would chum up those shark waters I was already swimming in. And while I thought it was important to make a historical record of what Donald Trump had done — just as a matter of First Amendment issues and presidential politics, whether he won or not I thought it was important — I didn’t feel it was necessary to endanger my own safety or my children’s safety to do that. And I also didn’t want people to feel that I was trying to sink Donald Trump in any way, that I was trying to gum up his chances by hitting him with all these details at any point prior to the election. And I don’t believe in any way, shape or form that anything in this book would have stopped Donald Trump or changed his ascension to this office, but I do think it was important for me to tell it. So I think you should stop hitting me for not releasing it earlier and start praising me for releasing it at all.

EWB: That’s very articulate, but I don’t think we as journalists — this is just a sort of journalist ethics discussion — I don’t think we as journalists should even get into the business of trying to figure out whether this will derail someone or not. I just think the only test is whether it’s relevant.

KELLY: Well, I didn’t think it was…I didn’t think it would have an impact on the election one way or the other. I didn’t — I understood how there could be an appearance of impropriety, if you will, by some people who thought, “Okay, you’re doing it.” Listen, I could have said some things about Hillary Clinton that would have been unfortunate for her, too. But I don’t want to interfere. I didn’t want to be part of this election at all. And to go out there and say, “I was under death threat for the entire year.” Listen, I’d said enough that people knew that. But I didn’t have to get into the specifics of my security guards and the number of death threats and the people showing up at my home. That just wasn’t necessary. I’d given the top-line items; that’s all people needed to know. And I made sure they knew it.

EWB: I just think there’s power in the narrative that you put in the book, when you put it all together in your voice. It’s extremely powerful.

KELLY: I know, Erik, but be realistic. I have a 7-, 5- and 3-year-old. We lived under armed guard for a year. We still have an armed guard. Why would I do something that might fan those flames within a month of a presidential election? How do you think that would have gone for me and my family?

EWB: But isn’t the risk just as great now?

KELLY: No, because the election is over. And I knew it would be over one way or the other. Either Trump would have lost and his supporters would have said, “Whatever.” Or Trump would have won, and his supporters would say, “All right, whatever.”

EWB: So you’re not seeing the plume of abuse that you did during the campaign?

KELLY: Not the same, no. Absolutely not the same, no.

EWB: You mention in the book, and this is an interesting part . . . you say that there were anchors who did this game-out sort of thing with Trump [wherein they rehearse questions for an interview in advance of the interview]. But you don’t name them; who are they?

KELLY: Obviously I’m not going to name them now because I chose not to do so in my book.

EWB: I understand that you don’t want to name them, but you put it out there. I might just all of a sudden decide that that’s Anderson Cooper or that’s — take a name — Chris Hayes. Isn’t this the problem with anonymous sources that when you make such an allegation and don’t give any specificity, it just slimes the whole industry?

KELLY: I don’t think so. I think people are smart enough to figure out who the likely candidates are. And in any event, this is not a nightly news report on “The Kelly File.” It’s a book, I mean there’s a lot in there that — it’s not something I would report at night on Fox News, but it’s my take on a situation. And I think, again, this is something that people should know took place and you don’t need the names to know that there was corruption in the coverage of this race. That was deeply problematic.

EWB: But everybody’s corrupt now.

KELLY: I think any reasonable person knows which reporters to eliminate.

EWB: I just think everybody is now slimed and that’s a problem with the media — that criticism takes place with such a broad brush that everybody gets the taint.

KELLY: I don’t think that’s true. I don’t think that’s true at all. Look at Donald Trump: He loves to call out individual reporters by name, which leads to major problems in those reporters’ lives. I certainly don’t want to add to that myself.

EWB: In the book, you write that Fox News critics were delighting in Roger Ailes’s downfall. And you said, “Perhaps it was the Fox News connection, but questions surfaced a little too frequently, asking why these women didn’t just quit. Why it took them so long to come forward,” you wrote. But that wasn’t just Fox News critics. [Fox News stalwart] Brit Hume also tweeted that same sentiment, and he is cited in the book as a great mentor. Isn’t that a reaction of just, like, guys?

KELLY: Not all guys.

EWB: Do you need to brush back Brit Hume as well?

KELLY: I’m not going to make any comment about anything specific about Brit or what anybody else at my company said. But I do think that that knee-jerk reaction is outdated and shortsighted.

EWB: Yeah, I made the point at the time. I thought it was awful.

KELLY: I know, and it was a great point. The knee-jerk reaction to put the blame on the women is wrong, it’s wrong. We have to start talking honestly about this or it’s going to continue. As I’ve said in many interviews, you don’t get to ask me why I didn’t come forward sooner until you ask me whether there was a safe avenue for reporting at my company. Only if the answer to that question is “yes” do you get to ask me why I didn’t come forward. And I say that not for myself, Erik, because I did come forward. I say that for my fellow women at Fox News, who did not. And it’s not because they’re bad people or they enjoyed it or they asked for it or it was no big deal. It’s because in many cases they were scared — they were scared of what would happen to them. It’s very easy for some men and in some cases women to sit back and say with 20-20 hindsight, “Tsk-tsk, should have done more.” But it doesn’t account for the reality.

And by the way, that’s another reason why when people say now, “Would you advise young women now to come forward?” I have to stop and say, “Let’s be careful about this.” Because as much as I, Megyn Kelly, with my contract and generous salary and my life all set could look back and start lecturing 23-year-old women on how they must take a stand, it would be disingenuous. Because if there’s a 23-year-old woman or a 32-year-old woman who is in the position I was in at that time, it would be career suicide for her to do more.

EWB: You mention that you were able to use the power that you’d stockpiled to speak out last summer, and I think that’s 100 percent true. Just a question, have you used any of that authority in the aftermath of Ailes’s departure to take aim at some of his legacies on air, like the so-called leg cam and the showcasing of women’s legs on air? There are other things that sort of outlast Roger Ailes. Are you using some of that credibility to take on those things, or have you done your part and you’re just focusing on “The Kelly File”?

KELLY: I would say “assumes facts not in evidence.” I’ve been there 12 years; I’ve never had a leg cam. Never. People are so focused on the appearances of Fox News anchors. Look across the networks. The Fox News anchors are lovely. They have an incredible combination of brains and beauty. And I think that’s one of the reasons people love watching them and listening to them. But we haven’t cornered the market on it. When I look at CNN, I see incredible combinations of brains and beauty there, too. And I have actually seen women’s legs and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, I don’t think that needs to be corrected. I think you can look at a woman’s legs while she delivers the news and still take her seriously . . . I believe I’m living proof of that.

EWB: You see more women legs than men legs, right? I mean, I don’t know what Bill O’Reilly’s legs look like.

KELLY: Welcome to humanity, Erik. That’s not a Fox News thing; that’s a human being thing.

On Dec. 14, 2017, the Erik Wemple Blog conducted a phone interview with Megyn Kelly, then a FOX News anchor. This is a part of their conversation. (Video: Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

EWB: Tucker Carlson once asked on the set of “Fox & Friends”: “Are female breadwinners a recipe for disharmony within the home?” Now, the departure of Ailes was an inflection point for Fox News, meaning that there was perhaps a chance to take the programming in a different direction. Among the first major moves was to place this guy Carlson in the [prime-time] lineup. Did you lobby for him; if not, for whom did you? And to what extent does he represent a future that you’d like to see for Fox News?

KELLY: As far as that particular comment, I refer you to my segment with Lou Dobbs and Erick Erickson. In which I famously challenged two guys at my network for saying exactly that kind of thing, so you know how I feel about comments like that. As far as Tucker, though, I don’t think you can sum up the man based on a comment here, a comment there. My experience with him has been nothing but delightful and respectful and I think he’s a huge talent and I am thrilled to see him hosting the 7 p.m. show — thrilled.

EWB: Have you seen any of the misogyny that he did at the Daily Caller, including the website with all the titty clickbait and all that stuff? Does that matter to you?

KELLY: I don’t — no, I haven’t see that and I don’t know what you’re referring to. It’s not like Tucker is at my house every night for dinner, but I have known him for a long time and what I’ve seen of him is a man who’s respectful and kind and loving and actually so far in his time at 7 p.m., I happen to know has reached out to a lot of women who may not get on camera that often to say, “Would you like a shot, would you like to come on? I think you’re great.” All I’ve heard from my female colleagues is gratitude for new opportunities since he’s taken over that show. So I am a big Tucker fan and I believe he’s a good person and will continue to believe that until somebody gives me great reason to believe otherwise.