Megyn Kelly is opening up about the firestorm of sexual misconduct, harassment and assault allegations simmering throughout the entertainment industry — and her own firsthand experience.
In a new interview with Deadline, the former Fox News anchor — who was with the network for 12 years before moving to NBC this year — addressed the sexual harassment she allegedly endured at the hands of the late Roger Ailes, former CEO of Fox News.
“I started at Fox News and in television in 2004,” began Kelly, 46, who first came forward with her Ailes experience in her 2016 memoir, Settle for More. “I was thrilled. I had not even been doing part-time TV for a year. So I was nine months in doing two days a week, completely green, a cub reporter by any standard. I get hired at the national level and it’s thrilling. I work for Brit Hume in the DC bureau and the first year goes brilliantly. The second year is going brilliantly and I’m getting great assignments and I am making my bones. I’m doing it. I’m proving myself. I’m at the Supreme Court every day. I’m reporting on complex matters. I’m condensing them down to small, digestible bits. I’m doing it.”
“And then you get a call to go meet with the big boss in New York and you think this is it,” she continued. “He’s noticed me. I’ve caught the attention of Mr. Ailes was the exact quote from Brit Hume to me.”
Kelly said it felt “great” at the time.
“You go up there wide-eyed at the possibility of what your life might be thanks to your hard work,” she said. “You’re in there and by nature you want to try and charm your boss. That is true of all of us male or female, and then there’s a moment in the meeting where it turned.”
“Before you know it this person is talking to you in a way that is very familiar to you but shouldn’t be in the office setting,” she continued. “He’s lecturing you about how your very favorite anchor in the television industry slept her way to the top. She was smart, he says. Hopefully you’ll be smart too, he says. Every instinct inside of you first says no, no, no this isn’t happening. Maybe I misinterpreted it. Maybe I’ve heard him wrong. Maybe it’s a joke and I could just laugh it off and pretend it never happened.”
“The second thought is I’m such an idiot. I thought I was being called up here for opportunity,” Kelly added. “I thought my hard work had been recognized. I thought this was a career trajectory kind of moment. Instead I’m looking at a dirty old man who wants to get in my pants.”
“It’s disgusting, it’s dejecting, it’s maddening and so now you have to ask yourself what you’re going to do about it,” she said. “Are you going to reject this man, upon whom your very future at the company in my case depends, and in all likelihood in the industry? In my case, and in the Harvey Weinstein victims’ cases, their influence is beyond the company. It’s industry-wide. If they want to sink you, you will be sunk.”
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Kelly also touched on the culture of silence she witnessed at the company.
“Early on in my tenure at Fox when I was being harassed by Ailes, I didn’t know a lot of people,” she said. “I didn’t have a lot of female friends like I did 13 years later. I did have a couple and so I would sort of stick the toe in the water with the women I knew because [Ailes] was the king. I mean, it was like being in North Korea and trying to criticize Kim Jong Un.”
“So I’d carefully stick my toe in the water with other women like, ‘have you ever been in his office by yourself?’ ‘Have you ever sensed an odd vibe?’ ” she continued. “There was one woman in particular, the one I knew best, who I asked that of. She said, ‘absolutely not, he’s only been completely professional with me.’ You know what? She turned out to be one of his accusers.”
Of how to address the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace, Kelly said a major focus should be “a greater and more robust partnership with men.”
“Men, for better or for worse, will be our best advocates because they are there in the moments that count, in the moments where this stuff is happening to us or about us and we’re not present or even able to make a difference,” she said. “A strong man who is respected at the office who stops another man and says, ‘Dude, no,’ is worth so much more than a stern look from a woman in the moment. I don’t like that fact but it is a fact. So our good, smart, evolved, ethical men need to be our partners in the effort.”
“I also think that women haven’t figured out how to handle these situations in the moment,” she added. “The thing I say to all the young women coming up behind me and even my peers is to remember first and foremost above everything that no is an available option.”