Megyn Kelly Blasts Excessive Media Coverage of Trump: ‘We Have to Worry About Our Souls’

On her Wednesday night show, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly described a recent meeting with Donald Trump to “clear the air” in wake the Republican frontrunner’s months of public attacks against her. However, appearing at the annual Women in the World forum on April 6, Kelly ripped into her media colleagues for their excessive and skewed coverage of the billionaire’s campaign.

Yahoo! News anchor Katie Couric interviewed Kelly at the event, and wondered: “The New York Times reported that Donald Trump’s gotten an estimated $1.9 billion in free media coverage.... And more than a few media executives have said Donald Trump is good for business. Does that – does that comment bother you? Is that really what journalism has come down to, pure business?”

Kelly replied: “It does bother me and I don’t think it’s right....I said to my executive producer Tom Lowell, I said, ‘This isn’t right.’ And I said – I could see all the other media starting to do it – I said, ‘When the postmortem is done on the coverage of Donald Trump, wherever this race goes, let’s make sure we’re on the side of the angels.’”

She added:

And I am proud to tell you that our show has not taken those pressers....We have not taken his campaign events wall-to-wall, we don’t wallpaper the show with a Donald Trump campaign event. Why? Because we don’t do that for the other candidates. So it’s not fair....we all have to worry about numbers to some extent, that’s the reality of TV news in 2016, but we also have to worry about our souls and journalism.

A series of Media Research Center studies have confirmed that press has given Trump far more air time than any other GOP contender. In fact, over the past three months he has received more coverage than the other candidates combined. In January, the broadcast networks devoted 157 minutes or 60% of the total coverage of the Republican presidential candidates to the businessman’s campaign. In February, it was 187 minutes (50%), three times the coverage given to Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio. In March, Trump was awarded five times more air time than Cruz, with an astonishing 267 minutes or 72% of the candidate coverage.

Tell the Truth 2016

At the forum, Couric – known for her softball interviews with liberals – ironically asked: “I think equally disturbing, though, is this whole, I think, trend towards not asking super-challenging questions. Because if you ask super-challenging questions, the candidate gets mad. The candidate gets mad, he or she won’t be interviewed by you anymore.”

Kelly argued: “And I think it’s so ironic because if everyone had stood up from the beginning and asked very tough questions, which is what we get paid to do, there wouldn’t have been this issue because we would have all been shoulder to shoulder asking tough questions. So you couldn’t cut off access.”

The Kelly File host tried to remind her fellow journalists of their responsibilities: “...our job is to press, we’re supposed to press. And what I have seen in the election is – and I wonder sometimes whether the question I asked him at the debate and the backlash against me has cowed other journalists....this was a moment, this was an opportunity for solidarity among the press that I think we missed.”

She also called out the media double standard when dealing with Trump:

...the journalists are sort of trying to defend themselves by saying, “Well, we asked Ted Cruz and he doesn’t say yes. We asked Donald Trump and he says yes.” Okay, that’s fine, when it comes to interviews. That doesn’t explain all the phoners that the Sunday shows allow Trump and not the other candidates....They broke the rules only for Trump. And not only that, we’re talking about the campaign events. Katie, when have you ever seen news stations take campaign events?...we don’t do that for anybody....And then the media would sit there and say, “Amazing how the polls are just up, up, up.” It’s like, you’re putting you’re thumb on the scale.

After Kelly called for “an honest self-assessment in the postmortem to figure out what we’ve done,” Couric observed: “It will be really interesting to see how journalism schools discuss this campaign, I think, in 10 years.” Trying to frame herself as a serious objective journalist, Couric added: “I think we’ll be okay, but if I were some of those other folks I’m not sure I’d want to be around.”

Here is a transcript of a portion of the lengthy April 6 exchange:

(...)

KATIE COURIC: Let me ask you about the media in general. The New York Times reported that Donald Trump’s gotten an estimated $1.9 billion in free media coverage. And Nick Kristoff – a lot of people are now – there’s a lot of hand wringing going on among various members of the media – he wrote a column called “My Shared Shame: The Media Helped Make Trump.” And more than a few media executives have said Donald Trump is good for business. Does that – does that comment bother you? Is that really what journalism has come down to, pure business?

MEGYN KELLY: It does bother me and I don’t think it’s right. And I’ll tell you what, early on in this election, it was June when Trump announced, early July, I think it was, he went down to the Mexican border and did a presser from there. And it was fascinating TV. We put it on, on The Kelly File at 9:00 and we watched it and it was the first sort of like, “I can’t take my eyes off of this. What’s he going to say next? There’s just something so compelling about this.” And we saw our numbers the next day and he had soared.

And then he had another presser not long thereafter. We said, “Let’s put that on, it was great television.” And again, it was like, “Look at this, I’ve never seen anything like this. What’s happening?” And we looked at the numbers the next day and they soared.

And it was at that point, we’re still in July, I said to my executive producer – this was long before the debate and had nothing to do with any feelings I had about Donald Trump – I said to my executive producer Tom Lowell, I said, “This isn’t right.” And I said – I could see all the other media starting to do it – I said, “When the postmortem is done on the coverage of Donald Trump, wherever this race goes, let’s make sure we’re on the side of the angels.”

And I am proud to tell you that our show has not taken those pressers. It has nothing to do with what happened at the debate, even before the debate we had this policy. We have not taken his campaign events wall-to-wall, we don’t wallpaper the show with a Donald Trump campaign event. Why? Because we don’t do that for the other candidates. So it’s not fair.

And it’s not about – yes, we all have to worry about numbers to some extent, that’s the reality of TV news in 2016, but we also have to worry about our souls and journalism.

[APPLAUSE]

COURIC: And in fact, I mean, I think equally disturbing, though, is this whole, I think, trend towards not asking super-challenging questions. Because if you ask super-challenging questions, the candidate gets mad. The candidate gets mad, he or she won’t be interviewed by you anymore. So it’s all about access. And do you feel as if people’s hands were tied during certainly the beginning of this election cycle because they did not want to kill the goose that was laying the golden egg, as my father would say?


KELLY: I do. And I think it’s so ironic because if everyone had stood up from the beginning and asked very tough questions, which is what we get paid to do, there wouldn’t have been this issue because we would have all been shoulder to shoulder asking tough questions. So you couldn’t cut off access.

COURIC: You know, I wonder about that, though. He has been such a Teflon candidate. He has said many outrageous things that would disqualify a lot of other candidates. But I think the groundswell of support for him is so strong for whatever interesting reason that these – some of his answers throughout the course of this campaign really haven’t hurt him in his standing.

KELLY: No, I think that’s true, but that’s a different issue. What his answers are is for the voters to evaluate and make up their minds about. What the questions are is up to us. And I think –

COURIC: No, I agree. I agree, but I’m just saying, I don’t know if it would have made a big difference.

KELLY: I don’t – see, I don’t look at it that way. I don’t care whether it makes a difference or not, that’s for the voters, right? Like, our job is to press, we’re supposed to press. And what I have seen in the election is – and I wonder sometimes whether the question I asked him at the debate and the backlash against me has cowed other journalists because they don’t want it to happen to them. Maybe they don’t have a boss they think will stand behind them. Or maybe they just want access and they want the numbers.

But what would have happened if they had gone a different route. What would have happened if everybody – and you’re seeing a lot more of it now – but what would have happened if in that moment everyone had gotten tough, really tough on them, including him. And then, you can’t, as a presidential candidate, shut down everybody. You can’t shut down Fox and CNN and CBS and ABC and NBC – you can’t. So there’s strength in numbers on our side, too. And this was a moment, this was an opportunity for solidarity among the press that I think we missed.

[APPLAUSE]

COURIC: Do you think that could have happened, though? I just don’t know. I think people are – it’s so driven by the bottom line I think was sort of a race to who could sort of improve their ratings. And I – it would have been great, I agree, but I don’t know how realistic that would have been.

KELLY: But that’s one thing I do want to say because now the journalists are sort of trying to defend themselves by saying, “Well, we asked Ted Cruz and he doesn’t say yes. We asked Donald Trump and he says yes.” Okay, that’s fine, when it comes to interviews. That doesn’t explain all the phoners that the Sunday shows allow Trump and not the other candidates. Phoners. Fox News Sunday, hosted by Chris Wallace, is the only Sunday show that from the beginning said, “We’re not doing that. If you want to come on this program – these are revered programs – you come into the studio or we’ll send a satellite truck to you and we’ll put you on camera. We’re not doing a phoner on the Sunday shows.” They broke the rules only for Trump.

And not only that, we’re talking about the campaign events. Katie, when have you ever seen news stations take campaign events?

COURIC: They’re 90 minutes at times.

KELLY: Right, that’s – we don’t do that for anybody. We don’t do that for Hillary, we don’t do that for Bernie, we don’t do that for Cruz, we never did for Rubio or Scott Walker. Only one candidate. And then the media would sit there and say, “Amazing how the polls are just up, up, up.” It’s like, you’re putting you’re thumb on the scale. And so, it’s not an anti-Trump thing, it’s just a responsibility as journalists thing. And I think that we really need to have an honest self-assessment in the postmortem to figure out what we’ve done.

COURIC: It will be really interesting to see how journalism schools discuss this campaign, I think, in 10 years.

KELLY: Right?

COURIC: Yeah. I think we’ll be okay, but if I were some of those other folks I’m not sure I’d want to be around.

(...)


Please support NewsBusters today! [a 501(c)(3) non-profit production of the Media Research Center]

DONATE

Or, book travel through MRC’s Travel Discounts Program! MRC receives a rebate for each booking when you use our special codes.

BOOK NOW
Tell the Truth 2016 NBDaily Campaigns & Elections 2016 Presidential Media Bias Debate Conservatives & Republicans Yahoo! Fox News Channel Kelly File Video Megyn Kelly Katie Couric Donald Trump