White House chief strategist Steve Bannon in 2015 called former Fox News host Megyn Kelly “pure evil” during a vitriolic exchange with former network CEO Roger Ailes, according to a book excerpt published Monday by New York Magazine.
Bannon, who later became President Donald Trump’s campaign CEO, had several contentious exchanges with Ailes after their respective news outlets clashed over then-candidate Trump, according to the report adapted from an upcoming book by reporter Joshua Green.
Then the chairman of conservative outlet Breitbart News, Bannon published a series of articles critical of Kelly after she asked Trump difficult questions during the first Republican primary debate.
According to Green, Ailes asked Bannon to relent.
“Steve, this isn’t fair, and it’s killing us,” Ailes said, as quoted in the report. “You have to stop it.”
“Fuck that,” Bannon replied, according to Green.
Bannon’s adversarial approach to all news outlets except his own is well-documented. In a January interview with the New York Times, Bannon called the media “the opposition party” and said it “should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.”
“I want you to quote this,” he added.
When Bannon continued to attack Kelly after the debate, Ailes sent his personal attorney Peter Johnson Jr. to Breitbart’s Washington, D.C. headquarters with an ultimatum, according to Green: If Bannon refused to call off Breitbart’s attacks, he would never appear on Fox News again.
Bannon responded with more attacks on Kelly, who he said would “turn on” Ailes “one day,” according to the report.
“She’s pure evil,” he said, as quoted by Green.
Bannon also promised to intensify his attacks. “We’re going full-bore. We’re not going to stop. I’m gonna unchain the dogs,” he said.
He told Johnson Jr. to “quote” his response to Ailes in person: “Go fuck yourself.”
More than a year later, neither Ailes nor Kelly remain at Fox News; Ailes was ousted from the network in July 2016 amid dozens of allegations of sexual harassment, and died less than a year later. Kelly announced in January that she was leaving Fox News after working there for 12 years for a new position at NBC News.