After the 2012 election, Megyn Kelly emerged as a media star because she was seen as a Trojan horse within Fox News—a figure perceived as possessing sneakily liberal tendencies, thanks in large part to her refusal to indulge political strategist Karl Rove in his disbelief that President Obama was to be re-elected. But in attempting to do something similar this election cycle—speaking frankly and directly to a powerful figure in the Republican party—she found herself closer to the center of the story than she could have hoped. Kelly, even as she prepares to release a much-hyped book and as she’s more central than ever to the culture of Fox News, finds herself at an impasse: What does a figure who’s positioned herself in opposition to the establishment do when a massive number of her potential viewers see her as the establishment?
Kelly’s vexed election season began with her question to Donald Trump about his treatment of women at the first Republican primary debate in 2015. It bore the hallmarks of a typical “Megyn moment” of the sort her fans love: tough-mindedness, a sharp point-of-view, and a transcendence, within limits, of GOP talking points. And yet Trump’s reaction—from his dismissive non-response onstage to his campaign against Kelly on social media—indicated that Kelly’s power over her audience had limits.