When Megyn Kelly launched a new podcast via her own production company in 2020, she feared it would have an audience of only two: her husband and her therapist. Three years later, her worries appear to have been unfounded.
In a sign of how her listenership has grown, she is extending a multi-year deal she has in place for the program to run first on SiriusXM — which has raised her visibility — that will keep her broadcasting “The Megyn Kelly Show” live on the company’s Triumph channel between noon and 2 p.m. eastern weekdays well through the 2024 election. Kelly expects to interview former President Donald Trump and play the exchange over the course of an hour on the September 14 edition of her program.
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The situation seems to suit her. “I could never go back to having a boss. I don’t do well with bosses,” Kelly says in an interview with Variety, making a not-so-overt reference to tangles she had with senior executives at Fox News Channel and NBC News over the course of her career. “I’m much better off at being my own boss and running my own show.”
Kelly is one of several opinion personalities who have gained new traction in the audio and direct-to-consumer space in recent years following the death of Rush Limbaugh and a seeming fracture of the right-leaning audience that has long found an umbrella at Fox News Channel. Many of those figures are former Fox News regulars who have gone on to seek their own crowds. Bill O’Reilly has a subscription-based video feed. Glenn Beck is co-founder of the conservative content outlet Blaze Media. And Tucker Carlson is trying to gain attention for a new live-streamed video effort on X, the social-media outlet formerly known as Twitter, that deals in subject matter that is more sensational, and perhaps more appalling, than what he discussed on Fox. Their audiences are likely smaller and more disparate than the ones that come to mainstream news outlets, but in an era of cord-cutting, their niche power is not to be dismissed.
Americans have made podcasts a bigger share of their media diet over the last decade. Approximately 42% of Americans aged 12 and up have listened to a podcast in the past month, according to a 2023 report from Edison Research. In 2020, that figure stood at 37%.
Kelly has long burnished her lack of ties to any specific political ideology, but acknowledges she’s made a few affiliations in recent years. “I think that I’ve been pretty clear that I’m an independent. I have voted for Republicans and Democrats,” Kelly says. Still, “there’s no question that my sensitivities in today’s wacky landscape are much more right leaning than they are left leaning. Culturally, I’m more aligned with the right than I am the left,” she says. “I’m as anti-’woke’ as anyone can get.”
Over the course of the past few months, Kelly has tilted at former CNN anchor Don Lemon; the United States Women’s Soccer Team; and the recent Republican primary debates. Her recent interview “gets” have included Florida Governor Ron DeSantis; former ESPN anchor Sage Steele; and the fringe Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. She has also dipped her toes into debates on vaccines and masks. In a recent appearance on the conservative cable network Newsmax, she raised eyebrows by claiming the Obamas had a hand in running the U.S. government and offered her take on why conservatives dislike Michelle Obama.
Just a few years ago, Megyn Kelly was one of the most prominent faces on the TV-news landscape. She enjoyed a quick rise in Fox News’ primetime, even as she gained license to push Republicans in ways others could or would not. She left Fox News in 2017, following a furor over accusations that former chief Roger Ailes had sexually harassed female staffers and others. Ailes denied the claims, some of which came in the form of detailed lawsuits, but the Murdochs, the family that controls Fox, ousted him amid a flurry of personal accounts of seamy behavior. Kelly seemed poised for mainstream acceptance when she joined NBC News to lead both a Sunday magazine program and a mid-morning talk-show hour of “Today.” Neither was the outsize success NBC had promised advertisers and affiliates, and NBC seemed unprepared for some of the controversies Kelly generated with her yen for tackling topics tied to culture, race and gender.
All Kelly seems to want is a chance to be her authentic self, which might be more nuanced — and shoot-from-the-hip — than traditional TV will allow. At NBC, she says, Andy Lack, the former chairman of the company’s news operations, told her that he really wanted her to say how she felt about the news, “but that’s not true. They wanted a cleaned-up NBC version of how I felt about the news.” At Fox News, she says, “they were far less interfering than NBC, but it was understood that it would remain right-leaning. I would not be expected to sound like an NPR host in primetime.”
She says she’s had discussions and offers about a return to TV in some form, but has declined them all (and declined to comment on any specific outlets that might have approached her). “I’m done with TV,” she says, noting that she now can pivot from commentary on serious news to talking about cultural trends with greater ease. “A lot of what I’m good at is sort of a middle finger to the stuffiness of TV, how everything has to be done their way.” She has even redesigned the studio she uses so that it evokes the air of a cocktail lounge, she says — not the “blue cityscape” seen in the background of so many news programs.
Kelly is gearing up for a new encounter with Trump, the first public interview she has done with him since 2016, when he took part in a primetime special that aired on the Fox broadcast network that positioned Kelly in a similar format to the interview extravaganzas Barbara Walters once led. Bill Geddie, Walters’ longtime executive producer, was also involved. Trump famously bristled at Kelly’s probe during a 2015 Fox News telecast at a Republican debate when she asked if he had the temperament to hold the nation’s highest office given how often he disparaged women. “Interviewing Trump is not easy and it’s fraught — especially for me and him. There is a history. You have to be willing to do your homework, and I am,” she says. “I think it’s going to be great, strong, fun, provocative, spicy — all the things that people want.”
Kelly’s qualms about launching the show, which she produces through her Devil May Care Media, have abated. “I know you may find this hard to believe, but I’m actually someone who is tender-hearted,” she says. “I really had to pause: Do I want to throw myself into that mix?” Now Kelly hopes to keep giving listeners more of the stuff she felt she couldn’t on TV.
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