New York: Megyn Kelly, the American television journalist whom Donald Trump demanded Fox News dump from the Republican debate, is one of the most watched and powerful anchors in US cable news.
The billionaire's decision to skip the debate, days before Iowa becomes the first state to vote in the 2016 presidential election process, has jettisoned the 45-year-old blonde mother of three back into the headlines.
"I refuse to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, because that would not be politically correct. Instead I will only call her a lightweight reporter!" the Republican frontrunner tweeted in a customary insult Wednesday.
"What (Trump's) not free to do and what no news organization would allow, would be for him to... dictate the terms of the debate," Kelly wrote to her more than 1.4 million followers.
Fox News chairman Roger Ailes stood firmly behind the woman whose prime time show "The Kelly File" is the second-most watched program in American cable TV news on the most-watched cable news channel.
"Megyn Kelly is an excellent journalist," he told The Washington Post. "She will absolutely be on the debate stage on Thursday night."
A former corporate litigator, Kelly joined Fox in 2004 as a television reporter from Washington DC, rising rapidly through the ranks thanks to her good looks, fierce ambition and clear intelligence.
Lampooned by satirists in 2013 for telling children on air that Jesus and Santa Claus were white, she has nonetheless burnished the journalism credentials of a network best known for Republican partisanship.
She won accolades in 2014 for challenging former vice president Dick Cheney over the invasion of Iraq. "Time and time again history has proved that you got it wrong in Iraq, sir," she said.
"Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better or is this real?" she asked strategist Karl Rove, who questioned whether Barack Obama had been re-elected on the night of the 2012 presidential election.
In 2014 she was the only woman journalist listed on the TIME 100: The Most Influential People in the World list.
She has also won support across the political spectrum for taking guests to task over lack of support for maternity leave and defending the increase in female breadwinners.
But it was her run-in with Trump last August during the first Republican TV debate of the 2016 election that shot her to much wider fame.
She and two male colleagues moderated the debate, which pulled in a record 24 million viewers. When Trump took offense to her tough questions, he insinuated that she treated him unfairly because she was menstruating.
"You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever," Trump told CNN afterward.
But the furore only gilded her star. Fox said her first post-debate program pulled in nearly 11 million viewers -- its highest ever.