The former Fox host is speaking out about her treatment by Trump and his supporters after she questioned then-presidential candidate Trump during the Republican primary debate in 2015.
“I wasn’t trying to be unkind to Trump in that moment,” she says in Frontline‘s upcoming documentary America’s Great Divide: From Obama to Trump.
“I was just doing my job as a reporter. But the way Trump sees media, the way he sees life, is all, ‘They like me, or they don’t like me,'” Kelly says in a preview for the documentary released Friday.
At the time Kelly, 49, had asked whether Trump’s treatment of women he didn’t like — whom he often called “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals” — was something a president should do.
Little did Kelly know, her simple debate question would turn into a comment that created months of public discord between her and Trump, 73.
That discord led to her become a target of his supports and also of the far-right media, in particular, Breitbart News.
Steve Bannon, the site’s executive chairman at the time, specifically asked his writers to attack Kelly, he admitted to Frontline.
“Fox has chosen a side,” Bannon said of Kelly asking the debate question. “It’s so evident in that debate that they’re there to kneecap Donald Trump — they’re there to take him out and that’s when we go ‘Okay we run 20 stories on Megyn Kelly.'”
“I got Tony Lee and Matt Boyle my two hammers, they go right after Megyn Kelly we’re going to cull her out from the herd and just hit her nonstop. That’s when all war broke out. That’s when you had to choose sides,” Bannon told Frontline.
After publishing a number of fiery headlines, Kelly began receiving hate mail, horrifying messages on Twitter and even death threats.
“It was scary at times,” Kelly explained to Frontline. “And Breitbart kept lighting the fire over and over and I had — and have — three young kids and the security threats were escalating and we were doing everything in our power to convey to them that they needed to stop. It was one debate question, just one debate question and he handled it fine! So, get off of it, but they couldn’t care less.”
Bannon would later serve as White House Chief Strategist in the Trump administration during the first seven months of Trump’s term.
After some time, Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes called Bannon in hopes of getting him to lighten up on Kelly, Bannon told Frontline.
“It sounds like a personal problem,” Bannon recalled telling Ailes to Frontline. “We’re not backing off. We’re going to put some more stories up tomorrow.”
Things for Kelly only got worse. “They tried to destroy me,” Kelly told Frontline.
While Ailes had defended her initially, Kelly told Frontline she believes he was later forced to side with Fox viewers, who were influenced by the negative news about Kelly and didn’t like her treatment of Trump.
Kelly then left Fox in 2017.
Ailes resigned as CEO of Fox that year after he was accused of sexual harassment by numerous women, including Kelly, at Fox News. He denied the allegations until his death in May 2017. Bombshell, which stars Charlize Theron as Kelly, explores those allegations. The film is in theatres now.
“Even having lived it, this Steve Bannon admission is stunning to me. This is disgusting. His misogyny knows no limits,” Kelly wrote on Twitter in response to the comments he made to Frontline about culling her from the herd.
Kelly’s husband showed support for his wife also on Twitter writing, “Maybe the only line in the movie Bombshell that my character says that is actually true: @megynkelly is stronger than all of them.”
Even having lived it, this Steve Bannon admission is stunning to me. This is disgusting. His misogyny knows no limits. https://t.co/wpOPV7L3Oj— Megyn Kelly (@megynkelly) December 14, 2019
Kelly and Trump made an effort to mend their relationship in 2016 after she requested to meet with him to clear the air.
“I just wanted to stop,” Kelly told PEOPLE at the time. “You’d get past an incident and then it would start again. It was really shocking.”
She explained that she decided to reach out after a brief hiatus in Trump’s attacks, telling PEOPLE, “I knew all along that if there could be a period of calm on his part, that I could go and approach him and we could get to a better place.”
And the meeting seems to have worked: “I have great respect for the fact that Megyn was willing to call me. Few people would have been able to do that,” Trump said. “She has natural showbiz ability with unlimited potential. Regarding the interview I know people will enjoy it.”