Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly waited until after the election to reveal that Donald Trump had inside information from Fox News about the question she would ask him at the first Republican primary debate, and to confirm that during the campaign former network chairman Roger Ailes was shilling for more positive coverage of the now president-elect.
Kelly’s revelations came not on her news program before the presidential election when they would have mattered most for the American public, but in her forthcoming book, according to the New York Times review published November 10.
— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) November 11, 2016
According to the Times’ Jennifer Senior, Kelly writes in her book that Ailes repeatedly called her during the campaign to suggest that she was being unfair to Trump. Kelly’s book indicates that Trump had prior, accurate knowledge that Kelly would ask him a “very pointed question” at Fox’s August 2015 primary debate. Senior writes that this indicates that “parts of Fox — or at the very least, Roger Ailes… seemed to be nakedly colluding with the Republican presidential nominee”:
Then, the day before the first presidential debate, Mr. Trump was in a lather again, Ms. Kelly writes. He called Fox executives, saying he’d heard that her first question “was a very pointed question directed at him.” This disconcerted her, because it was true: It was about his history of using disparaging language about women.
She doesn’t speculate where the leak came from. (She reports. You decide.) But that’s another unambiguous takeaway from this book: Parts of Fox — or at the very least, Roger Ailes, the network’s chairman until July, when he was given the boot after several allegations of sexual harassment were made against him — seemed to be nakedly colluding with the Republican presidential nominee.
Kelly’s book comes as she seeks to negotiate a new contract. Fox News is pushing to sign her, reportedly offering more than $20 million a year. Executives at other networks are reportedly interested, but have not made offers.
Several journalists have reported that Ailes was advising Trump while running Fox News, but Kelly’s after-the-fact acknowledgement of such blatant collusion is the first time a Fox employee has publicly admitted that Ailes was seeking to use his role at the network to aid his preferred candidate. Ailes’ role as an informal Trump advisor continued after Ailes was forced to resign after numerous women at Fox — including Kelly — accused him of a decades-long pattern of sexual harrasment.
Senior unfortunately seems completely nonplussed at the journalistic ethics of holding such bombshells until after the election. Instead, she lauds Kelly as “this presidential election’s unlikely feminist hero,” “the intrepid gal reporter,” “the hen in the Fox house,” “fabulous, shrewd and self-possessed,” a “superstar,” and a “metabolic anomaly” who “willed herself into her own spectacular existence.” As is typical for such glowing accounts of Kelly, the review comes with no acknowledgment of the actual content of Kelly’s show, which regularly traffics in the same misinformation, fearmongering, and racial anxiety as the rest of the network’s programming.
For her part, Kelly appears to have realized the journalistic peril caused by her post-election revelations and is seeking to do some damage control after her damning admissions circulated on social media:
For the record, my book “Settle for More” does not suggest Trump had any debate Qs in advance, nor do I believe that he did.
— Megyn Kelly (@megynkelly) November 11, 2016
Kelly wants to avoid the suggestion that Trump received actual debate questions from Fox because, in addition to the confirmation of collusion between the news organization and then-candidate Trump, her story raises specific questions of hypocrisy. Kelly provided harsh questioning and criticism of Democratic National Committee interim chair Donna Brazile, whose resignation from CNN was announced “amid fresh revelations that she sent questions to Hillary Clinton’s campaign in advance of a CNN debate and a CNN-TV One town hall.” “Can you imagine if this were a Republican had been fed a question by Fox News?” Kelly asked earlier this month. “You know, the different reaction we’d be seeing in the media?”
Following Brazile’s resignation, Fox media critic Howard Kurtz commented that CNN “can’t resolve the matter without the kind of transparency that news organizations regularly demand from politicians. And that means disclosing the results of the internal investigation and what steps CNN is taking to ensure such an ethical breach doesn’t happen again.”
Meanwhile, we now know Fox’s chief was advising the Republican presidential candidate and using his position to sway coverage in his favor. What kind of “transparency” will Fox provide, and what steps will the network take “to ensure such an ethical breach doesn’t happen again”?