KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
In August 2015, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly's life changed. It was the first Republican primary debate, and it was when Kelly asked this question of then candidate Donald Trump.
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MEGYN KELLY: Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women's looks. You once told a contestant on "Celebrity Apprentice" it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president? And how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who is likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women?
MCEVERS: The next day, Trump told an interviewer Megyn Kelly, quote, "had a blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever." And then came the threats from Trump supporters. It was the start of what Megyn Kelly in her new memoir calls her year of Trump.
KELLY: It was my year of guards and guns, you know, thanks to Trump. It was - I was under security threat for most of the nine months he was really coming after me. I had strange people showing up at my house. I had strange people casing my house. I had, you know, my children looking out the windows, afraid of who was coming up, not understanding who was popping up on our porch.
MCEVERS: Yeah, I mean it was people coming after you online - Trump supporters. But then there were also I mean things that people said online that Trump's, you know, own people re-tweeted. I mean talk about that.
KELLY: Well, I mean by far the tweet that bothered me the most was that of Trump's top lawyer, Michael Cohen, who is a senior executive with the Trump Organization. And when things were at a fever pitch after that first debate, Michael Cohen retweeted somebody saying, let's gut her.
You know, I go through in the book about how a senior executive at Fox, Bill Shine, called Michael Cohen and tried to walk him off the ledge and tried to stand him down on the threatening rhetoric, explaining, look; let me put it in terms you can understand (laughter). If Megyn Kelly gets killed, it's not going to help your candidate. And this guy Cohen didn't seem to care.
MCEVERS: And went on for months - I mean you had security. And then at some point you decided to reach out to Trump. You wanted to interview him for a primetime special called "Megyn Kelly Presents." And before doing that, you asked him for a meeting.
The meeting was off the record you write in your book, so you can't talk about, you know, the details of what was said, but you do say that he was very polite and that afterwards, the attacks stopped. Do you think that's because you reached out to him? Like, you had to lose, like, a little bit of face, and then he was going to be OK.
KELLY: Well, I do think it's because I reached out to him, but I don't think it - I don't feel that I did lose face. I mean to me, that was an empowering moment because no one was able to stop his antics. And I realized it would be up to me. And there was no way I was going to go and apologize to Trump, which is what he wanted. He wanted me to apologize for my debate question. That was not going to happen.
But I needed him to stop that behavior. And that interview and my meeting at Trump Tower seemed like a very safe off-ramp to get him off of his behavior and to get both of us back on solid footing. And it worked.
MCEVERS: It's interesting, you know, if you think about a President Trump going forward. And you know, it could be - there could be a lesson in there for someone who could feel like his enemy - that maybe the way to work with him is to work with him, is to come to the bargaining table.
KELLY: Well, I mean I - I'm a little worried about that because not everybody has the opportunity to go to Trump Tower, (laughter) right?
KELLY: And so I had a unique opportunity there, and I seized it. I hope in part - honestly I hope that maybe upon hearing in more detail what it does to somebody on the receiving end of his attentions, he - maybe he'll have some more pause because he's more powerful now and can affect far more people's lives actually with far less effort.
MCEVERS: I guess in this weird way, like, this year, your year of Trump, while it was a scary in some ways and difficult in other ways year - has also been a good year for you - I mean a book deal, an offer of $20 million contract from Fox. I mean you're reaching a lot of audience on your show. Is that a contrast that you think about?
KELLY: No because with all due respect to Trump, I was doing just fine without him (laughter). And for the record, my book offer came before Trump. As far as, you know, my Fox offer and my salary and all that, I had no trouble getting any offers or interest from Fox News even before Trump as well.
And Trump spent most of the year trying to destroy my career (laughter), not to lift it up. And it's certainly true that his attentions made me better known. You know, they made me better known. But I would submit to you it was the way in which I handled Trump's attentions that earned me whatever respect is out there as a result of this year.
MCEVERS: There is another big revelation in this book, though, and it's that you say you were sexually harassed by Roger Ailes. He's the founder and former head of Fox News. What happened?
KELLY: My own experience with him - it happened when I was - I'd been at the company for 12 months, and...
MCEVERS: What year was it?
KELLY: It was 2006. He started off - just inappropriate sexual comments. It wasn't like, hey, you look nice in that dress. It was, I'm sure you have some very sexy bras. And he wanted to see me in them. But then he would veer back and forth between that and really useful, professional advice.
So I would try to laugh it off, or I would try to just make a comment about work, you know, to sort of get back on the straight and narrow. And over those six months, it got more egregious. And it ultimately culminated in an incident where he did try to get physical with me. And I wound up running out of his office and calling a lawyer.
I made a record of everything he did, and then I did go and tell a supervisor. And that supervisor told me that this was a good man, that he was likely just smitten and that I should try to avoid him and hopefully it would stop. And that's what I did. And it did stop. And we went on to have nine years of a professional, good working relationship with one another.
MCEVERS: Right. I mean he promoted you. You took good maternity leave during your three pregnancies. I mean you even got promoted I think when you were away for one of them as I recall from the book.
MCEVERS: But do you regret not taking it further at that time? You told your supervisor you retain counsel, but do you think you could have taken it further?
KELLY: You know, it's hard to say I regret it because if I had done that, it would have been a kamikaze mission and not even because I think the only one who would have been brought down was me.
MCEVERS: Roger Ailes ultimately left Fox News after one of Megyn Kelly's former colleagues, Gretchen Carlson, sued him for sexual harassment. It's only now, Megyn Kelly told me, that she can encourage other women to come forward now that she has power. Megyn Kelly insists she is not a feminist, but she does want to be a role model for other women.
KELLY: I would like to believe that if this were happening to a young woman in the position I was in then, that she would feel comfortable coming to someone like me because I know if somebody came to me now, I'd make damn sure there was an investigation.
MCEVERS: Megyn Kelly, thank you so much.
KELLY: Thanks for having me.
MCEVERS: Megyn Kelly's new book is called "Settle For More." You can hear an extended version of our conversation on npr.org or the NPR One app. We did reach out to Roger Ailes' lawyer, but we didn't hear back. In his statement to other news organizations, he said, quote, "I categorically deny the allegations Megyn Kelly makes about me."
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