I may be in the minority, but I’ve always liked and admired Megyn Kelly. So much so that I was sad to hear about the growing Megyn Kelly TODAY PR boycott happening among Hollywood publicists last fall.
Because of her background as a corporate defense attorney, I trusted Megyn’s superb abilities to research and analyze the serious news of the day from all angles. I also appreciated the fact that she could hold her own with anyone—even then-candidate Donald Trump. In fact, if I had more time to read, I would buy her book, Settle for More.
However, I have always felt she sold out with her move to NBC’s “The Today Show” last year. In particular, I wondered how her penchant for tackling controversial subjects, as well as her “take no prisoners” interview style, would play during the show’s otherwise sunny morning chat fest.
Quite frankly, I feared she would lose her edge and become just another clichéd TV talk show host. Her recent segments about facials, bobsledding, and pot roasts seemed to reinforce my concerns. And the fact that these fluffy segments are sandwiched between stories about sexual harassment, body-shaming, and unsolved murders just added to my disappointment.
It feels as if she’s trivializing the important conversations by swapping them out with more mundane pieces in the same hour. As both a viewer and a publicist looking to pitch her show, I’m confused and frustrated. I’ve even come to understand some of the reasons behind the Megyn Kelly TODAY PR boycott, too.
Then I watched her Jane Fonda interview. Like Megyn, Jane Fonda is someone I’ve always admired. The difference is that I have first-hand professional experience with Jane, whereas I’ve never met or interacted with Megyn.
Years ago, when I served as Turner Broadcasting’s West Coast VP of PR, I handled some of Fonda’s logistical needs when she accompanied my boss (her then-boyfriend), Ted Turner, to various L.A. functions. I found her to be warm, down-to-earth, and very low maintenance, especially compared to other icons of her stature. Once when we were backstage at the Primetime Emmys telecast, she complimented me on my dress. How many A-listers do you know who acknowledge your existence, much less notice your wardrobe?
I’ve said all the above to put my following thoughts on Fonda’s interview and the larger Megyn Kelly TODAY PR boycott in perspective. My initial reaction was that Jane overreacted to Megyn’s question about her plastic surgery. Given that Jane talked about it in her 2015 interview with The Guardian, it seemed like fair game to me. Megyn even teed it up in such a way as to give Jane an opportunity to inspire other women with her frank and honest comments on the subject. So, in my opinion, it’s not really her fault that Jane felt ambushed because she was unfamiliar with Megyn’s edgy, even invasive interview style—which granted, is unusual for a morning talk show where the guests usually know all the questions in advance.
On the other hand, I also thought Jane’s response was fair game. She put Megyn in her place when she quickly dismissed the question and segued back to the discussion about her upcoming movie, Our Souls at Night, with Robert Redford. (If only all talk show guests could be as bold as Jane in their responses to questions they don’t want to answer!)
So, at this point, I think we could call it a draw and the whole thing could have died right there on September 21.
But not so fast. Skip ahead four months to January 20, when Variety’s Ramin Setoodeh reignites the flap by asking Jane about it during an interview regarding the upcoming documentary, Jane Fonda in Five Acts:
Variety: “You became a meme after an interview with Megyn Kelly went viral. Would you ever go on her show again?
Variety: “So you weren’t upset that she asked you about plastic surgery?”
Fonda: “No. It wasn’t like I was upset. I was stunned. It was so inappropriate. It showed that she’s not that good an interviewer. But if she comes around and learns her stuff, sure.”
Shortly thereafter, Fonda referenced the skirmish herself when she and Lily Tomlin appeared on a different hour of TODAY to talk about season 4 of their Netflix show, Grace and Frankie. During an exchange between the co-stars, Tomlin jokingly said that she knew Fonda before her first facelift, to which Fonda replied, “Who are you, Megyn Kelly?”
Jane’s comments seemed to be an honest attempt to close the book on the overblown story—first by confirming she would go on the show again, and second, by joking about the whole thing. And given these remarks, it doesn’t appear that Jane supports a Megyn Kelly TODAY PR boycott either.
Once again, it probably would have ended there—except that Megyn decided to escalate the feud with a shocking, on-air character assignation of the beloved 80-year old star that even included a reference to “Hanoi Jane,” among other below-the-belt comments.
This latest round in the saga have left many of us wondering about Megyn’s motives, especially when it would have been easier to just let Jane have the last word. Did she do it to garner another wave of publicity for her show and solidify her position as the only tough (even mean) talk show host in the national television morning line-up?
I guess that remains to be seen. As a viewer, I definitely think Megyn went too far, and I’m less inclined to regularly watch her show. As a publicist pitching potential guests, however, I’m on the fence about the Megyn Kelly TODAY PR boycott. While I’m hesitant to send a client to the guillotine, there are certain personalities, like Jane of course, who thrive in aggressive interview situations. (Think Rose McGowan or Alec Baldwin.) And going a round in the ring with Megyn Kelly might provide them with an opportunity to really knock their target message out of the park.
So what do you think: Could your client be a contender or should publicists everywhere join the Megyn Kelly TODAY PR boycott?