Ever since Megyn Kelly arrived at NBC from Fox News last fall, she has made giving voice to survivors of sexual harassment and assault a major part of her daily morning show. It made sense given her own experience with the late Roger Ailes. So why on Friday did she and her show follow Donald Trump’s lead in dismissing the #MeToo movement and all it has accomplished?
Speaking at a rally in Montana Thursday night, President Trump made a brief detour from his attacks on Sen. Elizabeth Warren to mock what he called the “‘me too’ generation.” Pantomiming a scene in which he would present Warren with DNA testing kit at a hypothetical 2020 debate, Trump said he would throw the kit at his opponent, “but we have to do it gently, because we’re in the ‘me too’ generation, so we have to be very gentle.”
After spending the first several minutes of her show on Friday defending Trump’s “Pocahontas” slur about Warren—“I just think if you’re going to claim minority status, given how protected that class is in the United States, that it better be legit,” she said—Kelly went on to tell viewers that the president, “maybe not surprisingly, was pretty dismissive of the #MeToo movement.”
“That’s a really dicey place for him to go, given his own history, very dicey place,” Kelly said. And yet, as she continued speaking, the words, “Is #MeToo Too Big?” appeared on the lower third of the screen, essentially making Trump’s point for him.
Noting that #MeToo has “been expanded to cover so many things that it was never expected to or meant to,” Kelly said she understood to a degree what Trump was saying. “But at the heart, it’s about sexual violence against women and should the president of the United States be mocking it?” she asked, without exactly giving an opinion one way or the other.
After two of her male guests lamented the plight of men who no longer know whether it is okay to compliment a female coworker’s appearance, Kelly said, “Most of us women don’t want that, where no one can tell you you look nice anymore.” She did say it “crosses a line” when a man tries to compliment a woman’s “rack.”
From there, Kelly proceeded to say that #MeToo has been “expanded to the point of ridiculousness by some,” telling the story of an employer who told her women are crying “#MeToo” when they are asked to work on the weekend. “I think a lot of employers are scared right now that they can’t say, just do it,” she added, misquoting an iconic line from Mad Men: “The paycheck is the thank-you.” (What Don Draper actually told Peggy Olson when she asked to be thanked was, “That’s what the money’s for!”)
As a woman forced to work under a man like Roger Ailes at Fox News, it is hard to believe Kelly would prefer the era of Mad Men over #MeToo.
Nowhere in the discussion did Kelly bring up the fact that on the same day Trump made his remarks, her former Fox News boss Bill Shine was officially named White House deputy chief of staff for communications. Shine was previously pushed out at Fox for allegedly covering up Ailes’ sexual misconduct.
The night before, however, Kelly did respond directly to a tweet from Shine’s wife that aimed to diminish the nature of Ailes’ harassment.