Megyn Kelly’s brand has yet to recover from the debacle of her interview with Infowars proprietor Alex Jones.
When NBC News revealed a teaser of Kelly’s interview with Jones early last week, the journalistic consensus was that she gave a platform to a monster. In spite of Jones running a popular radio show and website and boasting of links to the President of the United States, liberal journalists and activists said she was “normalizing” a dangerous conspiracy theorist who once claimed the Sandy Hook shooting was a false flag operation.
The preview showed no evidence that Kelly was going to offer support for Jones’s views and it makes sense for a newsmagazine show to interview somebody who is both influential and controversial. They are supposed to highlight interesting trends and figures in the news, you know.
But the intense blowback to an unseen interview forced NBC to re-edit the segment to make Jones look even worse than he did in the original version. Reports of this occurring earned Kelly a broadside from the interview subject himself, who published embarrassing phone calls he had with Kelly that made the NBC personality look like she was sucking up to him.
After all this chaos and criticism from the Right and Left, the interview came out Sunday night to lukewarm yet positive reviews from her initial detractors who, shockingly, found the segment did not “normalize” Jones. But the re-edited segment and mea culpas on the part of liberal journalists didn’t translate to a ratings bonanza.
In fact, a rerun of America’s Funniest Home Videos beat out Kelly’s paltry audience size on the same night.
The episode shows how Kelly’s fortunes have completely reversed since last year. Ever since she dueled with Donald Trump at the first GOP debate in August 2015, the then-Fox News star was lionized by the press. She was the one good thing about Fox. She was a strong woman defying the bully Trump. She demonstrated independence from the Right.
And no one doubted she was one of the biggest stars of television.
But then Trump was elected president and she left Fox for NBC. These events have seemingly made liberals forget what Kelly did during the election and they now just focus on her pre-Trump career.
More important than her battles with the eventual president is apparently her comments about Santa Claus. In December 2013, she infamously claimed St. Nick and Jesus were both white. That “offensive” comment often serves as the central point for articles digging up her “race-baiting” past and for doubting her journalistic credibility.
It seems that Kelly was only liked because she served as a dividing force at Fox. Journalists only liked her when she helped bring down Roger Ailes, made other network stars uncomfortable and, of course, routinely attacked the Republican nominee for president.
As a primetime anchor for Fox News, those traits made her different. At NBC, everyone is a liberal, and what differentiates Kelly from her peers is her past record of right-wing commentary. There are plenty of other female journalists who will challenge Trump, and none of them once emphatically declared Santa Claus is white.
That’s why there were already prominent rumblings about Kelly’s move and it displacing more reliably left-wing and non-white journalists.
Worst for Kelly, she’s probably not bringing many of her Fox News fans to her NBC gig. The only people who vividly remember her Trump opposition are Trump supporters, and they haven’t forgiven her.
Liberals do have a point when they bring up her past comments at Fox to disparage her. Kelly built her career on appealing to the stereotypical Fox News viewer — an audience the establishment media has contempt for — and then pushed that viewer away with her Trump commentary as he went to vote for the future president.
Left-wing journalists aren’t soon to forgive that past when the former conservative media star is now encroaching on their turf.
So far, Kelly’s career path has served as a cautionary tale for future television stars: don’t alienate your core audience in hopes of finding another one on that action alone. Somebody is going to remember how you earned stardom in the first place.