Megyn Kelly is full of shit. If there’s anyone who knows that in today’s media climate, simply seeking to “expose” a propagandist is typically a fool’s errand, it would be the former host of a Fox News prime-time show.
So when Kelly released a statement in response to criticism over her choice to interview the conspiracy-theory-shilling loon Alex Jones, she did so with willful ignorance.
After the loss of an advertiser and a rescinded invitation to serve as host of the Sandy Hook Promise gala honoring those killed in the Newtown, Conn., school massacre, Kelly wrote:
I understand and respect the decision of the event organizers, but I’m of course disappointed that I won’t be there to support them on Wednesday night. I find Alex Jones’s suggestion that Sandy Hook was “a hoax” as personally revolting as every other rational person does.
Yet she defended her choice to feature him on her newsmagazine show, Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly:
Our goal in sitting down with him was to shine a light—as journalists are supposed to do—on this influential figure, and yes—to discuss the considerable falsehoods he has promoted with near impunity.
This is a woman who purposely overstated the influence of the New Black Panther Party—to the point where write-ups about her show netted headlines like “Megyn Kelly’s Minstrel Show.” In the years after, Kelly served her Fox News viewers more racial folklore, to the delight of their thinly veiled prejudices. What cost did Kelly ever pay for being a racial demagogue? A news show on NBC, another morning news hour on the horizon and unwarranted praise as a serious journalist. Yeah, that’ll teach people in media to act right!
If the less-direct racism perpetuated by Republicans over the past half-century by way of the Southern strategy gave way to the 45th president of the United States, similarly, the sort of half-truths and hyperbole, if not flat-out lies, peddled by the likes of Kelly, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly on Fox News gave way to Infowars’ Jones.
There is no sense in trying to expose a known liar like Jones. All it does is further legitimize him. Meanwhile, Vox’s Brian Resnick recently touched on the science behind the realization that Kelly’s featuring Jones on her show may actually only help further spread his lies.
Of course, the interview aired anyway despite the controversy, only with some reported retooling by Kelly and NBC News. The interview began with Kelly addressing the controversy. “Some thought we shouldn’t broadcast this interview because his baseless allegations aren’t just offensive, they’re dangerous,” she explained. “But here’s the thing: Alex Jones isn’t going away.”
No, but whether or not he deserves to be the subject of a 20-minute interview on an NBC News-supported platform is the real “thing” to grapple.
Kelly still doesn’t get it, which is exactly why the interview was a pointless bore to watch. There appears to be a few critics who feel otherwise, though. The New York Times had the headline, “Megyn Kelly Presses Alex Jones on Conspiracy Theories in NBC Interview.” What interview were they watching? I saw Jones ramble for minutes on end without real pushback from Kelly. Los Angeles Times writer Lorraine Ali agreed with me and, apparently, so did viewers. Ratings for the episode were a flop; it lost the time slot to a golf tournament and a rerun of America’s Funniest Home Videos.
At the Washington Post, you got “Facing Alex Jones, NBC’s Megyn Kelly Manages to Avoid a Worst-Case Outcome.” Over at the Hollywood Reporter, the headline read, “Megyn Kelly Works Hard Not to Sully Herself With Alex Jones Interview.” She worked hard, but not hard enough. There are a few more-generous reviews of Kelly’s interview with Jones, only they all make me hark back to a piece published by the Daily Beast titled, “Why Are You Still Falling for Megyn Kelly?”
Indeed, why are some of you? What has she ever done to warrant such low expectations and constant grading on the curve? If Barbara Walters were a can of Coke, Megyn Kelly would be the generic-brand version of it, only the soda would be flat and warm and taste funny.
Even if one were to concede that giving Jones this sort of platform is troublesome, if nothing else, if he is going to be seen by such a wide audience, why not wrap him around every bit of his ugliness, his callousness and his strong penchant for sounding like a liar and a damn fool all the time? However, while there are plenty of journalists capable of doing that, Megyn Kelly is not one of them.
Kelly failed a week ago with Vladimir Putin, and she fell short once again with Jones. However, for those of us who have seen Kelly over the years on Fox News, we’re well aware of her ability to go hard against someone she is interviewing when it suits her. There are plenty of black guests who can vouch for this as Kelly tried to nail them while defending law enforcement, deflecting from addressing systemic racism or defending the honor of white Santa.
Now out of familiar terrain, she struggles. And as of now, she doesn’t appear to have the range for the kind of show she wants and the sort of journalist she would like us to believe she is. Maybe she’ll get better, but in the meantime, it is not lost on me why she turned to Jones for an interview.
She wanted a viral moment, and she wanted to reach a very specific audience. An audience to which she is most certainly used to catering. Unfortunately for her, she can’t have it both ways. Kelly either has to step it up and become the journalist she wants us to believe she is or return to being the propagandist many of us have long concluded her to be.
Pick a side, pick a side.