NEW YORK — On the opening night of the 2016 Women In The World Summit, journalist Katie Couric interviewed Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly about her public, months-long battle with Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump.
"I promise this won't all be about Trump, through he would love that," Couric joked, before devoting her full 30 minute interview to the subject.
Since Kelly asked Trump a question about his public treatment of women at the first Republican debate back in August, Trump has repeatedly insulted Kelly in interviews and on Twitter. He has called her a "bimbo," a "lightweight" and said she had, "blood coming out of her wherever," among many other insults.
According to Kelly, his supporters have joined him in his attacks, filling her social media with an endless stream of "vitriol," she told Couric.
"I try to stay off Twitter," Kelly said. "But of course it has bothered me, and it has gotten very ugly. I try to stay in my happy world," but at times, the hatred can't help but overflow into her personal life, the anchorwoman told Couric.
"I don’t like having to put my kids to bed and think about that vitriol, but I understand it’s part of the job," she continued.
Kelly said she understands the anger of Trump supporters – which she equated to that of Bernie Sanders backers – who believe "the politicians they elected have forgotten them," and feel they need to protect the candidate who represents them.
Kelly has her theories about Trump's anger toward her as well. "I knew [Trump] a little" before he announced his candidacy for president, she told Couric, "but not much."
Just before he announced his bid, Kelly said Trump began to call her more often to compliment her work, to send her clippings about herself which he signed. "It was nice!" she said. "Now I know he did that with many journalists... but I knew at the time there was nothing to be gained from developing a friendship with him."
Because of this, Kelly thinks Trump felt betrayed by her question.
"He said, 'I've been very nice to you,' and I was like 'I didn't ask you to do that!'" she said to laughter from the audience. "If we could just get to a place now where he would stop saying all those things [about me], it would be great."
Kelly made it clear that she wants peace with Trump. But at the same time, the media has a responsibility not to contribute to the candidate's popularity in the polls by over-broadcasting his rallies and press conferences in a way they do not for other candidates.
The Fox News anchor said that from the beginning she and her staff decided not to "wallpaper the show" with Trump footage in order to get a bump in ratings, and made sure to continue to challenge him when given the opportunity.
"We have to worry about [ratings], but we also have to worry about our souls, and journalism," Kelly said to applause.
She also maintained that journalists should continue to challenge Trump, and the other GOP candidates, in a way she feels they have shied away from doing.
"I wonder if the backlash against me has cowed other journalists," Kelly told Couric, saying that she thought her initial battle with Trump could have been an opportunity for the media to "get tough" with him. "It was a moment for solidarity among the press that I think we missed," she said.
Couric ended the interview by asking Kelly if she has learned anything from the debacle. "Yes," Kelly responded, after pausing to think.
"Adversity is an opportunity for growth," she said. "And an opportunity to really know who your friends are."
Ema O'Connor is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Ema O'Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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