“How about this title — ‘Settle for More,’ ” enthused Lissa Muscatine, owner of Politics and Prose bookstore, to a sold-out crowd at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue Dec. 5.
“It’s not only a great title by Fox News broadcaster Megyn Kelly, who was named top news anchor of the year [by Adweek magazine]. It’s also a really great book.”
It was an almost surreal endorsement by Muscatine, a longtime former speechwriter for Hillary Clinton, who bought the well-known store in 2012 with her husband Bradley Graham, a former Washington Post reporter. The popularity of Kelly’s show, “The Kelly File,” has grown to rock-star levels since she confronted now President-elect Donald Trump in the first debate and endured his wrath for months afterward.
This summer, her contract with Fox News expires. Rumor has it that she is being bombarded with $20-million-plus contract offers by Fox, Disney/ABC, NBC and others. “How much will Megyn settle for?” is the breathless media question of the month, according to Politico.
But coming from Kelly herself, it sounds completely different.
“I am doing the job I love,” she said last Monday. “But there are four other people I love that are involved. I leave for work around 3 p.m., just when my three children, ages 7, 5 and 3, are coming home from school and I don’t get home till after they are in bed,” she lamented. “I’m missing too much of their childhood already and time with my husband, a writer. If I can’t work out a schedule to do the five-night-a-week Kelly show and see my family, I will just need to look for something else.”
This is the theme of her book: “Settle for More.” “Not more money, necessarily,” she said, “but more of what I want — time for my family and more from myself.”
Kelly’s path to this pinnacle of success in broadcast journalism was untraditional. After nine years as a top corporate lawyer, she got to a point where she “was proud of her achievements, felt I had ‘arrived,’ but where I could no longer deny my unhappiness. I am more exciting than this,” she found herself thinking.
When her application to a graduate school of journalism was rejected, she asked a friend who worked at the local TV station how she could get a job there. An interview was set up, she was hired to do standup news and … the rest is history.
But it wasn’t all sweetness and light. Kelly’s book reveals that 10 years ago, even as Fox founder and CEO Roger Ailes was a great mentor for her, she increasingly had to put up with his sexual harassment. “I ran out of the office several times before anything physical happened,” she related. “I thought I was the only one and was not in a position of power to do anything.”
This year, after the explosive revelations by several Fox newswomen of abuse by Ailes, Kelly made a personal call to the Murdochs, the owners of the company, and told them of her experiences. Within weeks, Ailes was fired.
Kelly’s strong sense of family came from her “No trophies for everyone” upbringing. “My parents were educators whose attitude towards us kids was that we were not terribly special. At least, they would say, ‘We don’t see it yet,’” Kelly recounted.
“They expected us to be engaged with everything touching our lives, to have a sense of humor when we had a bad day and to be relatively happy. Their pride in our achievements was good for that day only,” she laughed. Now she says, she has “already thrown out a couple of trophies her son has brought home merely for participating in something.”
Kelly’s father died of a sudden heart attack at home when he was 45. Megyn was 15, still in high school; her mother was 44. “She was so strong. She cried, of course, but she was a model for me how she just managed in the face of it all. Later, when we had problems, she would tell us, ‘Don’t play the victim. It isn’t attractive. Toughen up, Buttercup.’”
For Kelly, the most rewarding aspect of journalism is not speaking truth to power, but more “being able to hold people in power accountable — even if they don’t come on the show, like Hillary never did.” But she doesn’t take things like that personally. “I don’t offend easily,” she says.
Instead, she does what is one of the most charming habits of Megyn Kelley. She chuckles.