Donald Trump’s feud with Megyn Kelly was way darker than any of us knew. Kelly received so many death threats and so much harassment from Trump supporters after confronting him at the first Republican debate with a challenging question about his many, many misogynistic statements that she needed a special security detail for a year.
The Trump campaign stoked the flames of the Kelly hate, the Fox News host told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in an interview on Wednesday, to the point that one of the top executives at Fox News had to explain to one of Trump’s top employees why if she “gets killed” it might be bad for their campaign.
“Michael Cohen, who is Trump's top lawyer and executive vice president with the Trump Organization had retweeted ‘let’s gut her,’ about me,” Kelly said. “At a time when the threat level was very high, which he knew. And Bill Shine, an executive vice president of Fox, called him up to say, 'You got to stop this. We understand you are angry but she's got three kids and is walking around New York.' ”
“And he didn't much care,” Kelly continued. “And what Bill Shine said to Michael Cohen was, ‘Let me put it to you in terms you can understand: If Megyn Kelly gets killed it is not going help your candidate.’ ”
Let me put this in terms you can understand. Cohen took to Twitter to call Kelly a liar and retweet people calling her a “snake” and a “psycho.”
Cohen’s basis for calling Kelly a liar is that “[I never said] that I didn't care about her fears and that her children were in danger.” Kelly didn’t say that Cohen said that, of course. Kelly said that Shine, who has since been promoted to co-president of Fox News, felt that Cohen seemed so indifferent to the danger his and Trump's actions were putting Kelly in that he felt compelled to explain to Cohen that it might hurt his boss’ political chances if she were murdered. Cohen, for his part, did not deny on Twitter that this is what Shine said.
Cohen also said on Twitter that when he retweeted “gut” he didn’t mean it to be a physical threat.
“Definition of Gut: to make (something) no longer effective,” he repeatedly tweeted. This is indeed, the third Merriam-Webster definition of the verb “to gut.” The second is “to remove the internal organs from (a fish or an animal).”
Cohen is no stranger to elaborate threats against journalists. When the Daily Beast republished an account of a sworn deposition from Trump’s first wife Ivana in which she had used the word rape to describe something Trump did to her, Cohen said “you cannot rape your spouse” and then threatened the reporters.
“I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we’re in the courthouse. And I will take you for every penny you still don’t have. And I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know,” Cohen told the Daily Beast at the time. “So I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting. You understand me?”
“You write a story that has Mr. Trump’s name in it, with the word ‘rape,’ and I’m going to mess your life up … for as long as you’re on this frickin’ planet … you’re going to have judgments against you, so much money, you’ll never know how to get out from underneath it,” he added.
(The account of the Ivana Trump rape incident as reported by the Daily Beast is that of a sexual assault, but since that deposition Ivana has said she didn’t mean it in a criminal sense. Cohen later apologized for saying that spousal rape wasn’t real rape).
As ABC News reported in 2011, Cohen is a fan of violent metaphors, if not violence itself:
Cohen, 44, is known around the office—and around New York—as Trump's "pit bull." Some have even nicknamed him "Tom," a reference to Tom Hagen, the consigliore to Vito Corleone in the "Godfather" movies.
"It means that if somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn't like, I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump's benefit," Cohen said in an interview with ABC News. "If you do something wrong, I'm going to come at you, grab you by the neck and I'm not going to let you go until I'm finished."
Cohen was also known during the campaign season for his fierce defenses of Trump. Once, he reiterated Trump’s claim that the candidate didn’t find the number of women accusing him of sexual assault attractive enough to attack.
“Beauty is in the eye of beholder … these aren’t even women he’d be attracted to,” Cohen said at the time. “I think what Mr. Trump is really trying to say is that they’re not somebody that he would be attracted to, and therefore, the whole thing is nonsense.”
In an interview with the New York Times, Kelly said her experience should be troubling to anyone worried about how a free press might be treated and might operate under President-elect Trump’s incoming administration:
“The relentless campaign that Trump unleashed on me and Fox News to try to get coverage the way he liked it was unprecedented and potentially very dangerous,” she said ... If he were to repeat the same behavior from the White House, she said, “it would be quite chilling for many reporters.”
Cohen led the draft Trump for president movement in 2011 and at the time then–Politico reporter Ben Smith reported that he may have violated campaign finance rules.