"This woman did nothing wrong," M.J. Day told PEOPLE Every Day on Tuesday, defending Naomi Osaka

By Gabrielle Chung
July 20, 2021 09:02 PM
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Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue editor M.J. Day is speaking out in support of Naomi Osaka after the tennis star was criticized by Megyn Kelly following the release of her magazine cover.

Day defended the 23-year-old athlete during Tuesday's episode of the PEOPLE Every Day podcast, telling host Janine Rubenstein that she thought what Kelly, 50, did was "bullying" since Osaka "did nothing wrong."

When Osaka's Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue cover was unveiled on Monday, Kelly took a dig at number of times the athlete has appeared in magazines since citing efforts to preserve her mental health as the reason behind her decision to skip interviews at the French Open.

For more on what went into making the 2021 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Swimsuit issue, listen to PEOPLE Every Day below.

"Well, first of all, we did that shoot back in December of 2020," said Day, adding that Osaka had shot her SI Swim cover months before going public about her struggles with social anxiety.

M.J. Day, Naomi Osaka and Megyn Kelly
From left: M J Day, Naomi Osaka and Megyn Kelly
| Credit: getty (3)

The editor went on to explain why she called out Kelly on her own Instagram Story, in which she told the former Fox News host to "direct your vitriol somewhere else."

"It's such bullying and it's so unnecessary, and this woman did nothing wrong," Day told Rubenstein. "I'm like, 'You know what, you're journalists. How about you do your job and you fact check instead of jumping all over this woman for attention?' "

Day added that Kelly's comments about Osaka — who previously shared that she's suffered from depression since 2018 — are "part of the problem" in public discussions about mental health, noting, "How about we do our due diligence and make sure we know what the reality of a situation before we come for people."

"It broke my heart to see someone who is really living her life for the betterment of others while also trying to pursue her own passion, which is tennis and fashion," Day said of Osaka. "Let her live. Let her make decisions for herself that protect her own wellbeing. It's at no cost to anyone."

In the wake of the drama between Osaka and Kelly, a source close to the The Megyn Kelly Show host tells PEOPLE, "A bully is someone who attacks another with less power for the sake of being hurtful. Not a journalist/commentator who gets paid to comment on the news/public figures."

The two first exchanged online jabs on Monday, with Kelly responding to a tweet from conservative sports pundit Clay Travis that read: "Since saying she's too introverted to talk to the media after tennis matches, Naomi Osaka has launched a reality show, a Barbie, and now is on the cover of the SI swimsuit issue."

"Let's not forget the cover of (& interview in) Vogue Japan and Time Mag!" Kelly replied.

In a since-deleted tweet to Kelly, Osaka said her covers were shot before she publicly discussed her mental health struggles, which the athlete has previously said made it "stressful" for her to speak with press.

"Seeing as you're a journalist I would've assumed you would take the time to research what the lead times are for magazines, if you did that you would've found out I shot all of my covers last year," Osaka tweeted back, per a screenshot captured by Sporting News. "Instead your first reaction is to hop on here and spew negativity, do better Megan [sic]." 

Kelly followed up in a subsequent tweet, claiming Osaka had blocked her.

MJ Day
Credit: MJ Day/instagram

"Poor @naomiosaka blocked me while taking a shot at me (guess she's only tough on the courts)," Kelly wrote. "She is apparently arguing that she shot her many covers b/4 publicly claiming she was too socially anxious to deal w/press."

She added, "Truth is she just doesn't like Qs she can't control. Admit it."

Osaka made the decision to entirely withdraw from the French Open in May after picking up a $15,000 fine for not participating in the tournament's media requirements. She opted not to compete in Wimbledon a month later.

New episodes of PEOPLE Every Day drop every afternoon, Monday through Friday. Listen wherever you listen to podcasts.