In her new memoir Settle for More, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly detailed the repeated sexual harassment she allegedly received from Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. And on Tuesday, the 45-year-old journalist explained why she waited so long to go public with the allegations.
Appearing on Good Morning America in an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Kelly said the 76-year-old had made inappropriate remarks about her clothing when she first joined the network and suggested he would help advance her career in exchange for sexual favors.
“It culminated in a physical attempt to be with me,” she said of a January 2006 meeting. “He tried to kiss me three times. And when I rejected that, he asked me when my contract is up.”
While Kelly consulted a lawyer at the time and brought the manner to a supervisor, she decided not to move forward with the charges after being assured by her supervisor that Ailes was a good man and was likely just smitten.
Looking back, Kelly said she realizes that she should have come out about the incident earlier — especially now knowing the number of women who were also alledly targeted. But she claimed that if she were to have said something then, her career would have been over.
“Realistically, that would have been a suicide mission for me and my career,” she said. “I’d been at the company 12 months when he was doing this to me. I wasn’t Megyn Kelly of today. I had no power. And he was on the cover of industry magazines as the most powerful man in news. There was no one to go to. If I’d gone to the general council of the company, it would have been me — first year person — against the the CEO of the company.”
Ailes’ attorney Susan Estrich told PEOPLE in a statement: “Mr. Ailes denies her allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct of any kind.” The statement also referred back to Kelly’s words about Ailes on Charlie Rose: “I really care about Roger. And he has been nothing but good to me. And he’s been very loyal. And he’s had my back. And he’s looked out for me.”
When asked how she squares those comments with what she’s written now, Kelly said, “Well both things can be true. A woman can be harassed and then go on to have a good working relationship with a man harassing her. And that’s what happened in my case.”
She also explained that she avoided Ailes for six months, after her supervisor suggested that was the proper course to pursue. At the time, Kelly was down at Fox News’ D.C. bureau — while Ailes was in New York City.”
“Sure enough, he stopped,” Kelly said. “And we went on to have a healthy, working relationship. And what he said about promoting me and having my back over the next several years is true. It was one of the reasons why even I found it hard to believe that he was a serial harasser when the lawsuit broke and then women started coming forward anonymously. But it soon became clear to me that after reading the allegations that at least an investigation was necessary.”
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Kelly’s accusations come months after former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment suit against Ailes. He has denied all accusations of harassment against Carlson as well.
At the time Carlson’s lawsuit went public, Kelly wrote that she was pressured to put out a positive statement about Ailes, but she refused. Greta Van Susteren defended Ailes in the wake of the lawsuit, but went back on her support of Ailes after her departure from the network in September.
When Kelly was asked if she thought Ailes would still be the CEO of Fox News if Carlson hadn’t sued, Kelly said “I think so.”
Kelly first joined Fox News as a Washington correspondent in 2004. Her show, The Kelly File, is one of the network’s most popular shows and she is currently in contract negations looking to increase her current deal, which expires next July. She looks to increase her to an average annual salary north of $20 million for her next contract. A move that would put her earnings on par with fellow Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.
“I can easily stay at Fox,” she said of the negotiations. “I can hopefully go anywhere I want.”
During her interview with Stephanopoulos, Kelly also spoke out about her tremulous relationship with President-elect Donald Trump. Kelly famously took on Trump early in his presidential race over negative comments about women — causing him to unleash nine months of angry tweets about her, where he called her “overrated,” “angry” and “crazy.”
She went on to explain how her life changed after the incident — depicting death threats that were phoned in as well as her young daughter asking her what a “bimbo” was.
“It was a test of me as a person and a professional,” she said of the incidents.
Eventually Kelly and Trump met for an in-person meeting at Trump Tower.
“He gave me a nice greet — he hugged me,” she said. “It was bizarre — to be hugging this man who had tormented me for nine months and had tried to endanger my security. But I accepted it for the gesture it was, which I think it was a good-will gesture to try to say, if not ‘I’m sorry,’ then ‘let’s move on.’ “
“I neither apologized to him, nor did he apologize to me,” she said.
But what did the experience tell Kelly about the kind of a president Trump will be?
“Listen, there’s no question that Donald Trump is thin-skinned and he can be mean-spirited — he can be vindictive,” she said. “But my own experience with him proves that he’s able to let things go if he so chooses. He came after me like a dog with a bone for nine months. Finally when I went to see him at Trump Tower — and believe me, I was not conciliatory to him — he got past it.”
Kelly went on to add, “He has a magnanimous piece of him He has a charming piece to him as well. And while I think Trump doesn’t like it when he feels attacked, if he feels like if you’re open-minded or at least neutral toward him, he becomes a bit more open-minded. The problem with him is he often feels attacked even when he’s not.”