Donald Trump took a break Monday night from insulting immigrants and his fellow Republican presidential candidates to go on a Twitter tirade against Fox News’ Megyn Kelly. While the rest of the world had hoped that the anti-Kelly rage would have died down by now, almost three weeks after the GOP debate, it evidently hasn't. The ongoing backlash against Kelly's direct questioning of Trump proves that — sadly — the quickest way for a woman to be dismissed as angry or irrational or unprofessional is still to challenge a man. On Monday, Kelly returned to hosting her show on Fox, The Kelly File, after a vacation. Trump greeted her return by retweeting a follower who called Kelly a "bimbo" as well as one who insulted her looks. It was a seamless continuation of the attacks he started immediately after the August 6 Republican debate, when Kelly challenged Trump on past sexism. Since the debate, Trump memorably said Kelly asked about him past sexist comments because she had blood coming out of “her eyes, blood coming out of her…wherever," and suggested her vacation was really an unplanned leave she was forced to go on for daring to attack him, the GOP frontrunner.
And on Tuesday afternoon, he called her unprofessional for asking him harder questions than she did of other candidates. "I think her questioning of me, despite all of the polls saying I won the debate, was very unfair," he said. Of course, Kelly didn't really go on an unplanned vacation just after she helped make the debate a ratings extravaganza. Her bosses at Fox said the host's absence had been scheduled for months. But the fact that it wasn’t a forced leave doesn’t matter to Trump, who has a personal vendetta against a woman who stood up to him. So now he’s restarted his attacks because he’s unaccustomed to not getting his way. Unfortunately, after two weeks, Trump is still at it because it turns out that insulting a woman and calling her irrational doesn’t actually have that many adverse consequences. Instead, it’s been Kelly who had to defend her line of questioning. "He felt attacked — it wasn't an attack, it was a fair question. But I get it. He's in the arena and so am I," she said shortly after the debate. "I'm a big girl, I can take it."
It's still easiest to force Kelly — or any other woman who doesn't let a powerful man talk down to her — into the "angry female" box.
It would be great if there were a way that Kelly’s initial questions could have been a chance to talk seriously about Trump’s ugly public conflicts with women, or about the policies most Republican candidates oppose that women support overwhelmingly, such as making it easier to get birth control. But instead, it's still easiest to stuff Kelly — or any other woman who doesn't let a powerful man talk down to her — into the "angry female" box. Political cartoons at outlets as mainstream as The Week featured an oversized, combative version of Kelly, and others implied that she went after Trump to advance her career — as if having a prime-time television show isn’t high-profile already. Kelly is tough enough to take it, but it doesn't say much for us as a culture that there was ever any question about her feelings getting in the way of her professionalism. There was a host of crucial issues brought up at the debate by Kelly and the other moderators. In a perfect world, the questions we'd still be discussing would revolve around those — for example, Scott Walker saying he believes in an absolute no-exceptions pro-life policy, even when the mother's health is at risk — rather than a sexist outcry at a competent woman trying to do her job.