Donald Trump is accidentally turning Megyn Kelly into a superstar. There’s just no other way to interpret the result of his relentless and personal attacks on the Fox News Channel anchor.
A report that Kelly had been spotted entering Trump Tower in New York on Wednesday for a private meeting with the Republican presidential front-runner lit up the Internet like a celebrity sighting. And, in a way, that’s what it was. “Journalist meets with person she covers” wouldn’t normally be much of a headline. But, of course, this was not your normal sit-down.
It appeared that Kelly wanted to keep the visit quiet. But once word got out, Fox News used it to hype Wednesday’s episode of “The Kelly File.”
It turned out that Kelly didn’t have much to reveal. She confirmed that she had requested the meeting and that the hour-long session included discussion of a future interview.
“I hope we will have news to announce on that soon,” Kelly told viewers.
If Trump ultimately agrees, the interview will be the most anticipated – and likely the most watched – of the campaign. It will be a huge win for Kelly.
But even if Trump declines, the level of interest that the mere prospect of an interview has generated demonstrates that Kelly now commands the spotlight like few others in the news business.
She was hardly anonymous before her now-infamous clash with the billionaire real estate mogul at a debate last August. Kelly had already claimed some of the best ratings in cable news. But the barrage of insults that followed a tough question about Trump’s temperament created the conditions for Kelly to show poise and professionalism when all eyes were on her.
It’s actually quite common for journalists to burnish their reputations in adverse situations. For example, Pulitzer Prize winners often earn their awards by being thrust into disastrous circumstances (wars, bombings, shootings) and rising to the occasion. Kelly’s challenge in dealing with Trump’s vitriol isn’t life-and-death serious, of course, but the point is that good journalists frequently receive their greatest recognition when forced to handle something they would rather not.
Now, thanks to Trump, Kelly is not only the strong interviewer she was before but also a symbol of how to stand up to him without resorting to his crass tactics. She is, in other words, what Trump’s GOP opponents are not.
And she seems to realize that the status she has achieved in this election makes her very valuable. In a more recent interview with Variety, Kelly was noncommittal about her future at Fox News. With a contract that expires after the election, “I have to keep my options open,” she said.
“Never say never,” Kelly added. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve had a great 12 years here, and I really like working for Roger Ailes. I really like my show, and I love my team. But you know, there’s a lot of brain damage that comes from the job.”
You can bet that plenty of media companies would be happy to add Kelly – brain damage and all – after Election Day. And Trump, hard as he tries to do the opposite, is helping drive up Kelly’s stock.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Callum Borchers