Donald Trump’s ‘sexist’ attack on TV debate presenter sparks outrage

Donald Trump’s ‘sexist’ attack on TV debate presenter sparks outrage
Megyn Kelly’s searching questions attract praise – and derision from maverick candidate

When 10 men lined up last Thursday to debate their ambition to be Republican candidate in the presidential election, few predicted that the star of the show would prove to be the one woman among their Fox TV interrogators. Yet that is just how many commentators are describing Megyn Kelly, a 44-year-old lawyer-turned-journalist, who has drawn widespread praise – as well as furious derision from the maverick rightwinger Donald Trump – for her searching questions.

In the debate, Kelly provoked Trump by challenging him on his attitude to women, noting that he has called women “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals”, as well as challenging Marco Rubio’s views on abortion.

Trump replied that he did not have time for “political correctness”, but then went after Kelly on rival network CNN. “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.”

The insinuation that Kelly was menstruating crossed a line for organisers of the RedState Gathering, a conservative event featuring GOP presidential hopefuls this weekend in Atlanta.

“I have tried to give a great deal of latitude to Donald Trump in his run for the presidency,” said its organiser, Erick Erickson. “But there are even lines blunt talkers and unprofessional politicians should not cross. Decency is one of those lines.”

Trump’s latest comments about Kelly also met with an immediate rebuke from the only woman running for the Republican nomination. Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive, tweeted on Friday night: “Mr Trump: There. Is. No. Excuse.”

Trump used Twitter himself to attempt a clarification of his remark. He tweeted: “Re Megyn Kelly quote: ‘you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever’ (NOSE). Just got on w/thought”.

Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News, praised debate moderators but criticised Trump. “Friend Donald has to learn this is public life,” he tweeted.

The episode has surely made Kelly the most famous TV news journalist of the moment. Known as a fierce interrogator, she is not above creating her own controversies. Two years ago, she triggered a storm after venturing on her show The Kelly File that she believed Santa Claus was a white man, after an Slate magazine columnist opined Santa should be considered multiracial. Her comments drew howls of protest before Kelly reminded viewers that they were tongue-in-cheek.

“This would be funny if it were not so telling about our society, in particular, the kneejerk instinct by so many to race-bait and to assume the worst in people, especially people employed by the very powerful Fox News Channel.”

Kelly, who comes from Albany, New York, joined Fox News after only a year with a local news station in Washington DC. The Fox executive Brit Hume took notice. “Here is this woman who was strikingly attractive but has tremendous air presence and a very strong voice,” he told the Washington Post. “We were knocked out. It was screamingly obvious that this was someone with tremendous potential.”

Her legal training, Kelly later explained, helped her keep her cool in interviews: “My job is to do the interviews, not be the opinion-giver.”

But her ability to confront almost every member of the Republican debating panel with a direct question energised what are often tedious, pro forma events and drew the highest ratings, at 25 million viewers, of any presidential primary debate programme.

Kelly has acknowledged the sexism built into the TV news business. “In the industry women have a hard time because there’s an assumption that maybe you’ve moved up for reasons other than your mind.”

Working for a news station with a reputation for taking partisan positions has not put her beyond questioning the senior figures of Republican party orthodoxy. She received attention in 2012 when Fox predicted early that President Obama would be re-elected. When Karl Rove, strategist for the Bush administration, objected to Fox’s projection, Kelly shot back: “Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better? Or is this real?”

While still the most watched, and profitable, cable news station, Fox is failing to add younger viewers. According to the New York magazine columnist Frank Rich, Kelly was brought in precisely to turn around Fox’s demographics predicament. Kelly, Rich wrote, “is the latest blonde star in [a] stable that seems to emulate Hitchcock’s leading-lady predilections in looks and inchoate malevolence, [and] was promoted to her prime-time perch last year precisely to bring in a younger, less monochromatic audience”.

In an unlikely meeting of minds, Trump would no doubt agree with at least part of that statement. His response to the ongoing controversy has been to call foul and threaten to skip future Fox-hosted debates. “I have no respect for her. I don’t think she’s very good. I think she’s highly overrated,” he said.

Donald Trump’s ‘sexist’ attack on TV debate presenter sparks outrage Donald Trump’s ‘sexist’ attack on TV debate presenter sparks outrage Reviewed by Ajit Kumar on 8:28 AM Rating: 5

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