A few hours later, Gilliam arrived on Kelly’s cavernous set, just as she was closing out the C block. A production assistant sat him on the white leather high-back stool at the corner of Kelly’s transparent desk. Gilliam is bald and broad shouldered, with a thick neck and a bushy gray goatee. He has been trained to “kill ruthlessly,” he told me later. Kelly, in black spiky heels and a bright red dress, her blond hair now blown out, offered him a chilly hello during a commercial break, then returned to paging through her notes. The stool was small, and Gilliam appeared to droop over the sides. His Megyn moment approached.
For those unfamiliar with the phenomenon, a Megyn moment, as I have taken to calling it, is when you, a Fox guest — maybe a regular guest or even an official contributor — are pursuing a line of argument that seems perfectly congruent with the Fox worldview, only to have Kelly seize on some part of it and call it out as nonsense, maybe even turn it back on you. You don’t always know when, how or even if the Megyn moment will happen; Kelly’s political sensibility and choice of subjects are generally in keeping with that of the network at large. But you always have to be ready for it, no matter who you are. Neither Karl Rove nor Dick Cheney have been spared their Megyn moments, nor will the growing field of 2016 presidential aspirants, who can look forward to two years of interrogation on “The Kelly File.” The Megyn moment has upended the popular notion of how a Fox News star is supposed to behave, and led to the spectacle of a Fox anchor winning praise from the very elites whose disdain Fox has always welcomed. In the process, Kelly’s program has not just given America’s top-rated news channel its biggest new hit in 13 years; it has demonstrated an appeal to the younger and (slightly) more ideologically diverse demographic Fox needs as it seeks to claim even more territory on the American journo-political landscape.