Before Bravely Calling Out Bill O'Reilly & Fox News, Megyn Kelly Gave This Exclusive Interview To Andy Cohen

Photo: MSN/USA Today
Before Calling Out Bill O'Reilly & Fox News On Sexual Harassment, Megyn Kelly Gave This Exclusive Interview To Andy Cohen On Trump, Sexism & Strength
Entertainment And News, Self

And we've got the details and video of both!

Say what you will about Megyn Kelly, but the woman has proverbial ovaries of steel.

Articles across the Internet chronicling her recent transition from buttoned-up Fox News anchor to cheerfully upbeat NBC morning talk show host have attempted to paint her as somehow unworthy of respect from either the media or the general public. One article in Vanity Fair, for example, refers to the promotional run prior to the launch of Megyn Kelly Today as an initiation "into the daytime-show sorority" via a "hazing ritual" of guest appearances, in which Kelly "was visibly itching to disrobe herself" before launching into "gushy morning patter."

For me, this raises more than a few questions.

Is Matt Lauer a member of that sorority and was he hazed before being allowed to gush on-air every morning for the last 20-plus years? Or is this just a way, subconscious or not, to bring down a successful, intelligent, and accomplished attorney who also happens to be an attractive, confident and outspoken female? Does no one else see the striking similarity to the way in which Katie Couric could do absolutely nothing right by anyone when she took the opposite road from the Today Show to the CBS Evening News back in 2006?

Never mind, of course. That was all rhetorical.

The truth is that Kelly has a proven track record of successfully taking on and calling out some of the world's most powerful men who would rightfully terrify just about anyone, from Roger Ailes to President Donald Trump to Russian President Vladimir Putin. And no, I don't mean successfully for a girl, or successfully for a woman. Successfully. Period.

And now Kelly has done that again in a most powerful way.

Following the publication of an item in The New York Times alleging that disgraced former Fox News star Bill O’Reilly "agreed to pay Lis Wiehl, a former Fox News legal analyst, $32 million to settle sexual harassment allegations" and the subsequent statement on O’Reilly’s website claiming "The New York Times has maliciously smeared" him, Kelly came forward with a jaw-dropping statement of her own.

In the opening segment of her new show "Megyn Kelly Today", the former Fox News anchor boldly spoke out.

"O'Reilly calls The Times reports a malicious smear, claiming that no woman in 20 years ever complained to Human Resources or Legal about him. Maybe that is true. Fox News was not exactly a friendly environment for harassment victims who wanted to report, in my experience. However, O'Reilly's suggestion that no one ever complained about his behavior is false. I know because I complained...

I did something I have never done before that day. I wrote an email to the co-Presidents of Fox News, Bill Shine and Jack Abernethy, an email I have never made public but that I am sharing now because I think it speaks volumes about powerful men and the roadblocks one can face in taking them on."

Below is the complete text of that email.

"From: Kelly, Megyn

Sent: Tuesday, November 15, 2016 2:48 PM

To: Shine, Bill; Abernathy, Jack (FoxTV)

Subject: o'reilly

Perhaps he didn't know that I specifically discussed with Robert Murdoch whether I should include a chapter on Ailes, and that Rupert (and Lachlan, and Robert Thompson) all told me that I needed to.

Perhaps he didn't realize the kind of message his criticism sends to young women across this country about how men continue to view the issue of speaking out about sexual harassment.

Perhaps he didn't realize that his exact attitude of shaming women into shutting the hell up about harassment — on grounds that "it will disgrace the company" is in part how Fox News got into the decade-long Ailes mess to begin with.

Perhaps it's his own history of harassment of women which has, as you both know, resulted in payouts to more than one woman, including recently, that blinded him to the folly of saying anything other than "I am just so sorry for the women of this company who never should have had to go through that."

Whatever the reason, you've got a hell of a guy hosting that 8pm hour.

I'll be on the same CBS show tomorrow. I have no doubt they'll ask me about Bill's comments."

In a situation at least vaguely familiar to women everywhere, Kelly has been in a "no-win" bind since making the move from hard-hitting, conservative anchor at Fox News to upbeat, non-partisan morning talk show host at NBC.

As seemingly contradictory, self-righteous and hypocritical headlines have sought to bring her down several notches from all sides, ranging from back-handed compliments like "I Miss the Old Megyn Kelly" over at The New York Times to hyperbolic missiles such as "Megyn Kelly's Perniciously 'Politics-Free' Morning-Show Debut" at The Atlantic, Kelly seems to be doing what women who are willing to be themselves whether you or the media like it or not have done since time immemorial — carrying on with her business and her life regardless of what anyone else thinks.

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Shortly before her latest involvement with Fox News and O'Reilly, YourTango had exclusive access as Kelly's bravery and strong sense of confidence were on full display when she sat down for an interview with Bravo's Andy Cohen at The Girls' Lounge Dinner presented by The Female Quotient (TFQ) and NBCUniversal (NBCU).

Here are seven takeaways about life, strength and being a confident woman that have us applauding Megyn Kelly for her courage, grace, and integrity.

1. On finding confidence as a woman.

"My parents never raised me to believe that I was special... It's show don't tell. It's like baking the ingredients into the cake instead of just smearing a bunch of icing on something that is falling apart on the inside. So that's one thing. The second thing is I do believe my years as a lawyer really helped me... That's why I really believe in law school for anybody but especially for a young woman... There's no substitute for getting up and doing it. Just do it over and over and over."

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2. On dealing with adversity.

"Adversity will come. Offense will come. Insults will come. And while it's not pleasant in the moment, it's important to your strength... The insults may escalate. You may be in a position where the would-be President of the United States is saying you have blood coming out of your wherever..."

"And you'd better know how to handle yourself. You'd better not shrink and whither into a little puddle, otherwise, you're going to be humiliated. And so the route from A to B is not to welcome offensive or insulting conduct, but not to whither in the face of it either."

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3. On the biggest obstacles for female anchors.

"I think female anchors are in the same circumstances that women in business circles everywhere are, which is, we say something and it gets ignored and then a male colleague says it and it gets listened to. We get interrupted more at the conference table. We get dismissed because of the way we dress or because of our false eyelashes or because of the color of our hair. Meanwhile, none of that has anything to do with what's between our ears."

Kelly continued with this piece of game-changing advice for women to follow when handling men's incessant interruptions.

"Finally when I got older I learned this, it's just a great trick you really have to do. it's so simple... [Holds hand palm-up toward Cohen] 'I'm not done.'"​​

Cue the major round of applause from an audience full of professional women who relate strongly to the frustration of being constantly interrupted by men. 

4. On the advice she would give her younger self.

"Personally, I would remind myself to focus on myself... I think we tend to obsess about men too much. I love men, but I spent too much time thinking about 'What can I do to make him like me?" And I believe strongly that you're focusing on the wrong person when you do that... Professionally: Work hard. Don't be a complainer. And don't think you're entitled to anything. And don't ask for a bunch of breaks. And don't have your parents call to say that you're getting worked too hard... Say yes to everything. Be that person who will empty the garbage."

5. On her role model.

Kelly relayed a story of the time her mother went back to work shortly after her father passed away at the age of 45 from a sudden heart attack. Her mom, who was 44, returned to work as a nurse while still grieving.

"She went back to work too early because she had to. We needed the money. And she went into a meeting and she burst out into tears. And through her tears, she looked at the male doctors at the table around her, and she said, 'First of all, these tears are about my husband, not about you. Second of all, don't let the tears dilute the content of my message...' I think too often as women we're apologetic for our emotions and our emotions are what make us beautiful and special. I love that story because she owned it, she wasn't apologetic for it, but she was still heard."

6. On why her latest show will remain a relatively politics and Trump-free zone.

"I am sick of turning on everything and hearing nothing but TrumpTrumpTrumpTrumpTrumpTrumpTrumpTrumpTrump... Why have we surrendered every corner of our society to discussions about our president? And I know he's controversial and I know why it's cathartic for some and so on, but... it's too much. So my hope is that with this show we can offer a place that is hopeful, inspirational, fun. Where people can laugh and maybe shed a tear and feel connected to their fellow human beings, and yes, maybe have hopefully some insightful commentary on what's in the news that day, but I don't want this to turn into The Trump Show."

7. There is absolutely NO reason for women to fear being their truest and bravest personal and professional selves.

Towards the end of their time on stage together, Cohen turned to Kelly and said, "By the way, when we were talking about confidence before... talk to me about sitting across from Putin and having him nyet you to death. What kind of confidence did that take?"

Cohen was referring to Kelly's heated exchange with Russian President Vladimir Putin in June of 2017, in which she questioned the notoriously dangerous and intimidating foreign leader on everything from Russia's alleged involvement in Donald Trump's presidential campaign to reports of a connection between Trump's senior advisor Jared Kushner and Moscow to Syria.

In response, Kelly described the "electric" and "thrilling" experience as follows:

"I haven't seen that dynamic [before]... a Western female journalist get in [Putin's] face in that way. And to his credit he allowed it, and when I say "allowed" it was his forum. He could've kicked me right out of there and he sat for it... But there was only one moment where I thought I had pushed him too far and he got mad and that was a discussion on Syria... I came at him and said, 'It never happened? They did autopsies on the bodies of the children. There were officials from the UN, from this governing body, from that governing body. They faked it all?' And he said, 'There's another explanation AND YOU KNOW IT!' And I thought, "Oh! Crossed a line!" But he answered it... It was exciting. It was thrilling."

Where did all of this brave female insightfulness materialize?! At the Girls Lounge! A forward-thinking organization led by Shelley Zalis that offers a bit of an alternative to the good ole boys club.

As explained on their website: 

"The Girls’ Lounge was born after founder Shelley Zalis experienced the power of the pack in 2013. Zalis invited some girlfriends to join her at the male-dominated Consumer Electronics Show, and told them to invite their friends. About 50 women ended up walking the floor together. It was a 'heartbeat moment' where the minority felt like the majority. What started as an informal female gathering has turned into a movement that emphasizes collaboration and mentorship to activate real change... Our mission is to advance gender equality in the workplace. When you put women in any equation, the equation gets better."

Special thanks to Shelley and her amazing team for organizing this memorable, inspiring event celebrating female friendship and empowerment. 

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Senior Editor and happily-former divorce coach/mediator Arianna Jeret is a recognized expert on love, sex, and relationships (except when it comes to her own life, of course) who has been featured in Cosmopolitan, The Huffington Post, Yahoo Style, Fox News, Bustle, Parents and more. Join her Sundays at 10:20 PM EST for answers to ALL of your questions on Facebook Live on YourTango and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.