In the past few days, a whole raft of Fox News anchors and hosts have come out in support of their CEO Roger Ailes, who is being sued for sexual harassment by recently departed anchor Gretchen Carlson. Still very quiet: Megyn Kelly, the network’s most prominent woman and a recent participant in a new Lean In campaign. Megyn?
Six other women told Gabriel Sherman at New York magazine that they too had been sexually harassed by Ailes. In a statement, Fox denied those allegations too, noting they were old (they dated from the ’60s through the ’90s) and adding that Carlson’s legal team is “desperately attempting to litigate this in the press because they have no legal case to argue.”
Fox News personalities have proclaimed that this doesn’t sound like the gentlemanly, allegedly lady-positive Ailes they know: Greta Van Susteren noted that Ailes has never sexually harassed her. Maria Bartiromo told Variety, “It’s just not in keeping with what I know and my experience at Fox.” Kimberly Guilfoyle, who’s taken over Carlson’s show for now, told Ad Week she’s in “total disbelief,” adding, “This is a man who champions women.” Jeanine Pirro told The Wrap the allegations are “absurd.” Former anchor Kiran Chetry says she “never felt uncomfortable” around Ailes. And Sean Hannity has been energetically tweeting that it’s “all BS,” while Brit Hume demands to know why Carlson didn’t quit.
It’s a very spirited round of wagon-circling, and at this point only two prominent Fox personalities haven’t commented: Bill O’Reilly, who famously settled a sexual harassment lawsuit in 2004 brought against him by a young female producer, and Kelly.
Kelly has come in for a round of very warm press coverage this year, spurred by her handling of Donald Trump’s gross verbal attacks. Vanity Fair lauded her as “a newly minted role model for women” and she’s featured in Sheryl Sandberg’s new “Lean In Together” campaign, where an ideologically incoherent group of famous women vaguely proclaim how much they support other women. Kelly shared the video on her on Facebook page just three weeks ago:
“One of the most heartening parts of this past year for me has been the outpouring of support I’ve received from women,” Kelly says in the video. Together, she adds, a moment later, “We can stand up to anything and anyone.”
Kelly has been carving out a careful, diplomatic distance from Fox News this year, with her contract set to expire. She has made it clear that she would like an interview show, trying it out with a one-hour special, Megyn Kelly Presents, in which she and Trump made nice.
In an interview with the New York Times, she both praised Ailes for his support for her and politely hinted that she’ll go someplace else if she gets a better deal:
This is, of course, leads to the multimillion-dollar question: What will happen when her contract expires next year? Whether or not the special is a success, she will have plenty of suitors lined up. And Fox News is keen to keep her.
The special was the brainchild of the Fox News chairman, Roger Ailes, Ms. Kelly said. And she expressed loyalty to Mr. Ailes when asked about her future.
“The number of times he’s had my back, given me opportunities, stuck his own neck out there to protect me, I feel very grateful to him.”
She continued: “Having said that, this is a fickle business, and you never say never. Every time I’ve been up for a contract negotiation I’ve been open-minded to what possibilities exist.”
So: can Kelly somehow skate past this Carlson situation as though it’s not happening? Can she make a comment that’s noncommittal enough to not offend anyone? Or will she throw in with Ailes, reminding her new fans on the left where her heart really lies?
We’ve reached out to Kelly for comment and will update should we hear back.
Kelly in May. Photo via AP