Megyn Kelly issued a pretty intense clap-back against Jane Fonda on her NBC show Monday morning — the kind of researched, public dressing down you’d expect to see on a cable news show, not a network morning show where cheery banter is more the norm.
In just three minutes, the former Fox News host managed to go from addressing a plastic surgery-question tiff to lambasting Fonda’s Vietnam War history and questioning the actress’s patriotism.
“When she first complained publicly after the program, and repeatedly, I chose to say nothing, as my general philosophy is what other people think of me is none of my business,” Kelly said, referring to Fonda’s remarks about a September “Megyn Kelly Today” interview. “However, Fonda was at it again last week, including here on NBC, and then again elsewhere, so it’s time to address the ‘poor me’ routine.”
Kelly played clips of the actress talking about her appearance and showing photos of her in Vietnam. Some members of the studio audience could be heard laughing at times, as Kelly’s tone ping-ponged between snarky and serious.
While she said it was okay Fonda chose not to talk about it with her, Kelly said, “I have no regrets about that question, nor am I in the market for a lesson from Jane Fonda on what is and is not appropriate.”
“After all, this is a woman whose name is synonymous with outrage,” she added.
Okay, let’s step back. How did we get here?
The Jane Fonda interview
Fonda, along with co-star Robert Redford, appeared on Kelly’s NBC show the week it premiered. The actors were there to promote their new movie, “Our Souls At Night,” about a widow and widower.
During the interview, Kelly told Fonda, she was an “example to everyone in how to age beautifully and with strength and unapologetically.”
“You admit you’ve had work done, which I think is to your credit, but you look amazing,” Kelly said. “Why did you say — I read that you said you felt you’re not proud to admit that you’ve had work done. Why not?”
“We really want to talk about that now?!” Fonda replied, looking incredulous.
“One of the things people think about when they look at you is how amazing you look,” Kelly said.
“Well, thanks. Good attitude, good posture, take care of myself. But let me tell you why I love this movie we did, ‘Our Souls at Night,’ rather than plastic surgery,” she said as Redford laughed at her overt pivot.
Kelly’s show had already been getting pretty harsh reviews. USA Today called the premiere “awkward.” The Washington Post’s TV critic Hank Stuever described the debut as “a morning-show Bride of Frankenstein.”
Plus, Kelly had faced backlash earlier that week for a comment she made during a segment about the “Will and Grace” reboot. But the Fonda interview went viral. The actress’s expression as Kelly formed her words became the stuff of memes and a new GIF to add to the library.
Shortly after, ET Canada interviewed Fonda and asked her about the cringe-worthy moment. “Given the fact that we don’t have a lot of time and Bob is right here, it’s a weird thing to bring up, whether I’ve had plastic surgery or not,” Fonda said. “I have, and I’ve talked about it, but it just seemed like the wrong time and place to ask that question.”
A little Fonda shade
The actress and co-star/friend Lily Tomlin went on the “Today” show on Jan. 16 to talk about their Netflix series, “Grace and Frankie.”
Hosts Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie laughed along with the guests and asked how long they’ve known each other. Fonda tried to give a year, and Tomlin quipped, “I think before your first facelift.”
“Never mind! Never mind!” Fonda interjected. “We don’t need to hear that.”
“I was just kidding,” Tomlin said. “Who are you,” Fonda asked, “Megyn Kelly?”
The hosts, Tomlin and some guy on the set cackled with laughter. They all managed to move on to another topic, but remember, these are Kelly’s co-workers.
The show’s Twitter account even posted video of the exchange:
A bit more Fonda shade
During a Saturday interview about the Sundance premiere of Fonda’s documentary, Variety asked Fonda if she’d ever go on Kelly’s show again, and the actress said, “Sure.”
“So, you weren’t upset that she asked about your plastic surgery?” Variety asked.
“No. It wasn’t like I was upset. I was stunned. It was so inappropriate,” Fonda said. “It showed that she’s not that good an interviewer. But if she comes around and learns her stuff, sure.”
Apparently Kelly can’t take it anymore
Kelly said Fonda “appears to be fixated on an exchange I had with her months ago, on this show” when Fonda was there to promote a film about aging. The host also said that Fonda has spoken for years about “her joy in giving a cultural face to older women” and that an honest discussion about that would involve Fonda’s plastic surgery.
“Fonda herself knows this,” Kelly said. “That is why, to her credit, she has discussed her cosmetic surgery pretty much everywhere before coming on our show.” Then out came the receipts; Kelly replayed a bunch of comments Fonda has given to other outlets mentioning her plastic surgery.
“Apparently, when she came here, however, again to promote her film about aging, I was supposed to discern that this subject was suddenly off-limits,” Kelly said. “Look, I gave her the chance to empower other women, young and old, on a subject which she purports to know well and she rejected it.”
Kelly then cited Fonda’s controversial Vietnam War history:
Many of our veterans still call her “Hanoi Jane” thanks to her radio broadcasts, which attempted to shame American troops. She posed on an antiaircraft gun used to shoot down our American pilots. She called our POWs hypocrites and liars and referred to their torture as understandable. Even she had to apologize years later for that gun picture, but not for the rest of it.
A prominent antiwar activist, Fonda traveled to Hanoi in July 1972, where she met with seven POWs and made radio announcements begging U.S. pilots to stop bombings. A photo of her with North Vietnamese troops on an antiaircraft gun became a scandal and enraged veterans. She later apologized for the photo, but insisted she wasn’t a traitor for trying to turn soldiers against the war since she believed the U.S. government was lying.
Kelly also worked in an additional dig: “By the way — she still says she is not proud of America.” The comment refers to an October BBC interview, in which host Stephen Sackur and Fonda discussed how artists can leverage the public platform they have to effect political change. He asked Fonda, “Are you proud of America today?”
“No,” Fonda said. “But! I’m proud of the resistance. I’m proud of the people who are turning out in unprecedented numbers and continue over and over and over to protest what Trump is doing. I’m proud of that core.”
Fonda’s remark soon got picked up by Breitbart, and several conservative outlets followed suit. Fox News headlined its report, “Jane Fonda says she’s not proud of America,” and linked to the Breitbart story.
As Kelly wrapped up her segment on the Fonda fallout, she said, “The moral indignation is a little much.”
“She put her plastic surgery out there. She said she wanted to discuss the plight of older women in America,” Kelly continued. “And honestly, she has no business lecturing anyone on what qualifies as offensive.”