by Kitty Kelley
I groaned when the editor suggested I review Megyn Kelly’s memoir, Settle for More. “I couldn’t possibly,” I said. “The girl misspells her name.” (I go through life insisting on the extra “e” in my Kelley, and then get grief from the one-e Kellys for putting on parlor airs.) The editor barked like Ms. Megyn herself on her prime-time Fox show, “The Kelly File.” She told me to suck it up.
The book arrived with a staggeringly glamorous cover of the blonde television anchor looking beautiful but forbidding. Before you even get to page one, you know you’re not meeting Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. This is not the story of a warm and cozy girly-girl, all frills and fluff. Kelly knows she’s good as any, better than some.
So prepare yourself for Cinderella on steroids: the success story of a young woman who learned early in life that hard work will open any door that’s not already kicked in by great good looks. Her book is a testament to slogging, bone-cracking, round-the-clock effort, which she soldered to a laser focus to succeed.
“I believe in the Steve Martin mantra,” she writes. “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”
Kelly’s memoir is also a love letter to her father, who died suddenly when she was 12. “Sometimes I wonder if he has seen me on TV, and whether he knows that what I’ve accomplished is in part an accomplishment of his. He gave me the confidence to do everything I’ve done.”
But why write a memoir at the age of 46? Television’s czarina, Barbara Walters of ABC-TV, waited until she was almost 80 and off the air to write her life story and to reveal her love affair with Edward Brooke, the first African American to serve in the U.S. Senate.
NBC’s Jane Pauley was 53 when she wrote her book and revealed that she’d been institutionalized for bipolar disorder. Elizabeth Vargas of CBS-TV was 54 when she wrote to reveal her alcoholism. And — make no mistake — a “reveal” is expected of a television anchor who receives a $5 million book advance.
Kelly’s “reveal” comes at the end of her jaunty 320-page book when she busts Roger Ailes for sexual harassment, only to get trashed by some of her Fox colleagues for disloyalty to the boss who made her a star. (For Fox trashers, see index under “O’Reilly, Bill.”)
“I realized I had a choice to make,” Kelly writes. She could be quiet, or “I could ensure that the owners of Fox News Channel — Rupert Murdoch and his sons — understood they might actually have a predator running their company.”
Bye-Bye, Mr. Ailes.
Before she lowers the boom on rutting Roger, though, she relates the trauma of Trump, who made her “bleeding” a global issue and then called her a bimbo, a lightweight, and a liar. He allowed his attorney to encourage 40,000 people to boycott her show and “gut” her after the presidential debate in which she had slammed the candidate with a question regarding his piggish comments about women.
Sounding like a disciple of Oprah, whom she calls her role model, Kelly writes: “Adversity is an opportunity,” and she proved it by asking her attacker to help launch her own Fox Broadcast special. Without consulting anyone at her network, she secretly met with Trump after his poisonous tweets and suggested he sit with her for an exclusive “Barbara Walters type interview.”
Quelle surprise — Trump agrees. Unfortunately, the special bombed. According to Vanity Fair, “The heavily promoted prime time interview was a critical and ratings disappointment.” Slate called her interview “disgusting” and “fawning.” This Kelly doesn’t mention.
Overall, she writes with bawdy good humor and rarely “half-asses it,” as she says. “While discussing the Olympics, I said the word ‘shuttlecock’ made me feel uncomfortable…So sue me.” When her husband defended her to an angry Trump supporter, she told him, “You are definitely getting action tonight.”
Born “lower middle class,” she says she’s “new to money,” having spent most of her life without it. She claims to be a practicing Catholic but admits she doesn’t go to Mass every Sunday. She runs from being labeled a feminist, knowing she might alienate many in her audience, and professes to be an Independent. She doesn’t apologize for sounding racist by once proclaiming Santa Claus “is white,” and then adding, “Jesus was a white man, too.”
Kelly, soon to be renegotiating her television contract for an estimated $20 million a year (eeny, meeny, miny, moe — will she catch Fox or CNN by the toe?), is battling O’Reilly for dominance at Fox, although she dismisses him as an “ideologue” and a “pundit,” while describing her own show as “cool water over hot brain.”
She’s also battling O’Reilly for first place on the bestseller list and, if you look at the top nonfiction books, hers could fit under any of several titles: once a “Scrappy Little Nobody,” she is now “Filthy Rich,” bathed in “Moonlight,” a trifle “Superficial,” but “Born to Run.”
Kelly calls her memoir Settle for More because her mentor, Dr. Phil, changed her life when she heard him say on Oprah: “The only difference between you and someone you envy is, you settled for less.”
As she writes: “This was the moment when I realized I could change my life. I did not have to settle for less. I could settle for more.” And she definitely has.
Crossposted with Washington Independent Review of Books
(Note: In January 2017, Megyn Kelly did her last show for Fox News. After this review was written, Kelly made a deal with NBC to do a weekday daytime show and a Sunday evening show.)