In August 2015, Donald Trump unintentionally created a martyr out of Fox News host Megyn Kelly when, after the first Republican debate, he said of the co-moderator, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes…Blood coming out of her wherever.” During the debate, in her now-infamous performance, Kelly confronted Trump about his habit of calling women derogatory names and degrading their looks to get cheap laughs. A heated exchange ensued. Trump interrupted Kelly repeatedly throughout the night, but Kelly soldiered on.
Fast-forward more than a year. With the election cycle nearly over, much of the American public is pining for the days when Trump merely made menstrual jokes on national television. Kelly’s election coverage, however, has since become a Hail Mary for conservatives hoping to appeal to centrist voters who live above the base. Last night, Kelly welcomed on her show former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, a regular Trump apologist, where she asked him to explain the mounting sexual assault allegations against his candidate. Gingrich went ballistic, claiming that Kelly is “fascinated by sex” and that her network hasn’t covered a particular paid speech Hillary Clinton gave in Brazil. Between Gingrich’s shouts, Kelly repeatedly murmured “we did.”
Kelly proceeds to explain to Gingrich that it is her duty as a journalist to investigate the allegations against Trump. She rebukes Gingrich in the most satisfying way possible: by telling him that she is fascinated with the “protection of women.” Gingrich responded by screaming “Bill Clinton sexual predator.” Fed up with being steam-rolled on her own show, she tells Gingrich, “You can take your anger issues and spend some time working on them, Mr. Speaker.”
Conservative women calling out Trump’s temper tantrums and abberant behavior became a rallying cry for his opponents early on. Throughout this campaign, Kelly has made it clear that she’s not a woman who will be man-splained to, talked over, dismissed or intimidated. In the last year, she’s stood up to Mike Huckabee, who called women “trashy” and mocked Bill O’Reilly, much to the delight of liberal bloggers.
Kelly isn’t here for the patriarchy, and that’s a great thing for the Republican party. She’s doing her part to smash the ideologies most liberal and centrist voters have criticized, one sassy interview at a time. As Slate’s Amanda Marcotte wrote last year of men like O’Reilly and Huckabee, “These are men whose gender politics are so retrograde you next expect them to complain about women in trousers. Standing up against them is hardly some great strike for the sisterhood.” While Marcotte has a point, someone on the Republican side needs to remind the GOP’s geriatric, misogynist operatives that their rhetoric is tired and they won’t be getting away with it anymore. Kelly has proved herself to be the woman for the job.
For liberal women, Kelly represents a refreshing break from the near-constant stream of ugly, sexist comments spewing from the foaming mouths of right-wing politicians. Indeed, she is one of the sole reasonable conservative journalists voters can respect right now. Sure, the bar is low, and no, she hasn’t professed any explicitly feminist politics—just reason, which has been absent for most of 2016. Her inspiring take-downs of GOP misogyny continue to be a victory for women who are tired of listening to men condescend and dismiss them. If party leadership is paying any attention to voters in the wake of the Trump disaster, they might do well to put her in charge of the party’s inevitable post-election rebranding.