Within the halls of Fox News a virtual blood feud grows between Megyn Kelly and Bill O’Reilly, two of the network’s biggest stars. The tension between the pair has apparently swelled in recent months, largely due to O’Reilly’s petulant jealousy.
Brian Stelter delves into the animosity for CNN Money, describing a dispute rooted in bruised egos and a race for ratings. It’s unsurprising that a man like Bill O’Reilly would feel threatened at all, but it’s fitting that it seems to stem directly from a shot to his self-esteem:
“He’s never had a serious challenger like her before,” said one high-ranking source at Fox.
The crux of their issue stems from O’Reilly’s self-centered notions that he made Megyn Kelly a star and perhaps isn’t being properly recognized for his Herculean efforts and sacrifices.
O’Reilly and Kelly rarely see each other at Fox News HQ. He usually tapes his hour in the afternoons while she is busy preparing for her live hour. So the spat mostly plays itself out through intermediaries.
From Kelly’s perspective, she has been nothing but kind to O’Reilly, while she thinks he lets jealousy get the best of him.
From O’Reilly’s perspective, he helped make Kelly a star but now she’s too eager to outshine him — touting her own ratings successes without respecting his contributions.
Fox News chairman Roger Ailes is said to encourage competition for ratings, and you can’t deny that the strategy has worked out well for him. In this case, however, it is backfiring: Two of his most popular anchors are now vying for the top spot at the expense of company camaraderie.
In November 2014, Kelly beat O’Reilly for the whole month. But the win came with an asterisk: Rioting broke out in Ferguson, Missouri, during her hour, which lifted her viewership, and the big ratings from that one night were enough to notch a win for the whole month.
She beat him again in June 2015, when Kelly’s win was propelled by an exclusive interview with the Duggar sisters.
Then came Fox’s GOP debate on August 6.
Kelly was a co-moderator, drawing the wrath of Donald Trump for her questioning, and the debate drew 24 million viewers. Her post-debate “Kelly File” had upwards of 10 million. That was enough to put her ahead of “The O’Reilly Factor” for the whole month and quarter.
The two have also been battling for the same guest bookings and are both nearing the end of their contracts around the end of this year.
This is not the first time old man Bill has shown some jealousy towards Kelly. Early last year he whined that a New York Times profile of Kelly was a “puff piece.” The fact that the NYT did, indeed, go easy on a woman who was adamant about the race of a fictional man who slides down chimneys is undeniable. Still, I think most people would rather read a profile about Megyn Kelly than Bill O’Reilly and he seems to know that.
Most recently, the strain in their relationship manifested itself on air when O’Reilly interviewed Donald Trump about his decision not to attend the Republican debate being hosted by Fox News.
Many expected Bill to at least attempt to defend his coworker during the interview after Trump made some truly inane comments about her that were low even for him. Instead, O’Reilly didn’t speak a word in her defense. Many, including Kelly, noticed.
Kelly’s own show started 45 minutes later. She didn’t say a word about it. But inside Fox, others were buzzing. Ailes was not happy. One Kelly supporter went so far as to call it a “betrayal.”
Outside Fox, the snub was widely noticed. O’Reilly “let all the attacks stand,” MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough said the next morning.
What most of this seems to come down to is Bill O’Reilly being pissy about being beaten by a woman who didn’t attribute her every professional success to his kind gesture of simply doing his goddamn job well.
And so continues the most complicated battle of my adult life: The one between my conscience, my better judgement, and Megyn Kelly.
As I’ve said many times, I know that Kelly is generally not a good person and says terrible, awful things much of the time. Her specific brand of white feminism that rears its head on rare occasions (and generally only when Kelly herself is being treated unfairly) is maddening. And yet.
However I may feel about her viewpoints, I also can’t revel in the fact that Bill O’Reilly’s issues with her seem to be rooted in sexism. This is Bill O’Reilly we’re talking about. I don’t actually want any woman to be mistreated or unfairly criticized simply because she’s a woman, no matter how questionable her politics and professional motivations may be. Besides, there are so many things to dislike about Megyn Kelly that have nothing to do with her being a woman.
I can’t deny that she is highly competent at her job, (which obviously is not to report the fair, balanced truth) and I can’t even begin to imagine the bullshit mountains of sexism she’s had to contend with during her career at Fox News. This does endear her to me slightly because lord knows I’d have a hard time dealing with all of that too.
Add all that to the fact that she does occasionally make some completely sensible arguments on air, including going toe-to-toe with Bill O’Reilly on the existence of white privilege (here she actually argued, on Fox News, that black Americans face a different reality in this country than white people).
Megyn Kelly is an utter hypocrite, a frequent racist and a callous opportunist. Still, in a scenario that’s easily a pick between the worse of two evils, I find myself actively rooting for her and I don’t know how to stop.
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Images via Getty.