‘Settle for More’: Megyn Kelly on Trump, O’Reilly, Inspiration, and Revenge

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large
Yahoo TV

Megyn Kelly’s combination memoir and self-help book, Settle for More, was released Tuesday, but you’ve probably heard about some of the juiciest and/or most appalling items in it:

  • The sexual advances made against her by Fox News boss Roger Ailes: “I would be called into Roger’s office, he would shut the door, and over the next hour or two, he would engage in a kind of cat-and-mouse game with me — veering between obviously inappropriate sexually charged comments (e.g., about the ‘very sexy bras’ I must have and how he’d like to see me in them) and legitimate professional advice.”
  • Donald Trump’s typically schizophrenic behavior when confronted by anyone who stands up to him, especially a woman. Everyone knows the insults he unleashed via what he described to her as “my beautiful Twitter account,” but Kelly also floats an idea that someone in the Trump campaign may have tried to spike her coffee just before that first debate (or, she says, it may have been just a flu bug that was going around). More substantial are the disgusting threats from Trump attorney Michael Cohen about “gutting” Kelly, and — at the other extreme — Trump’s attempts to curry favor with the Kelly File host by offering her a trip to his Mar-a-Lago gilded grotto, which she declined, concluding, “This is actually one of the untold stories of the 2016 campaign: I was not the only journalist to whom Trump offered gifts clearly meant to shape coverage.” Welcome to your next president’s ethical worldview.
  • Less widely reported? Kelly says she “do[esn’t] really like Starbucks coffee.”
  • Anyone who watches Fox News to glean glimpses of interoffice politics is going to enjoy Kelly’s artful digs at Bill O’Reilly. She readily says, “Bill has done far more good than bad for me,” including giving her regular spots on The O’Reilly Factor early on in her Fox News rise, quoting him as saying, “She’s a star. I want her on every week.” But as that star rose, things clearly became strained: Once she had turned The Kelly File into a hit following Factor, “things changed between us in that I became his competitor rather than an afterthought.” She chides him for being “patronizing” in telling Judge Jeanine Pirro to “calm down” on his show. She writes of feeling betrayed when O’Reilly did a softball interview with Trump soon after the candidate’s attacks on her.

Kelly makes a neat, cutting distinction, referring to The Kelly File as “the most successful news show in all of cable (O’Reilly’s is an opinion program).” Ouch. Is it any wonder that the touchy O’Reilly went a tad ballistic on CBS This Morning on Tuesday when Norah O’Donnell had the sensible idea of bringing up Kelly’s book, and he started gibbering about how people should be loyal to the place they work for — a not-subtle swipe at the Ailes comments in this book, which Bill claims not to have read? (The Kelly comments occur about five minutes into this clip.)

But most of Settle for More isn’t about settling scores or one-upping bad-behaving people. It’s about Kelly’s rise from middle-class girl — raised by a loving, lively mom and a dad she adored who died of a heart attack when he was just 45 — to the media presence she is now. It’s about a girl who was bullied in middle school and had bouts of poor self-esteem, but who was raised with a strong work ethic that powered her first through law school and then rocket-propelled her to TV stardom. As with many of those with ambitious career goals, there were setbacks and casualties, including a first marriage, but the flinty persona Kelly projects on her Fox News show serves her well as a memoirist. The book is unafraid to chronicle her self-described weaknesses and flaws, while insisting that there are always solutions, chief among them faith in oneself.

The title of the book comes from something she heard Dr. Phil McGraw say on an Oprah episode Kelly was watching one evening when she was still an overworked, unhappy lawyer. Dr. Phil’s observation was, “The only difference between you and someone you envy is, you settled for less.” Kelly writes that, sitting over her TV dinner, Dr. Phil’s comment made her “drop her fork” with the force of revelation. Thereafter she resolved to go for what her gut told her to do.

If that seems all too tidy, well, inspirational books thrive on clean-cut moments of clarity, and Kelly has honed her book’s message with the same lawyerly precision with which she frames her questions on The Kelly File.

Reading Settle for More, you may occasionally think Kelly makes her ascent seem inevitable from hindsight. But the impression you’re left with is a highly positive, and, yes, inspirational one, grounded in a simple philosophy: Work hard, then work harder; don’t let personal attacks shatter your self-image; and keep moving toward goals you want to achieve. You may not become the star of your own TV show, but Kelly suggests that at the least, your life will be happier.

Settle for More by Megyn Kelly is available now wherever books are sold.