Megyn Kelly righteously made the case for working mothers yesterday when she took on Fox News contributor Erick Erickson and Lou Dobbs for their now-infamous comments that breadwinner mothers are somehow unnatural, bad for children and/or antithetical to the “typically” “dominant role” of the male. But before anyone goes lionizing her, consider the likelihood that she was doing exactly what Fox News wanted her to do.
To be sure, Kelly has at times done a decent job on sex and gender issues. But not always. Remember when she helped rehab Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women” comment? When she characterized Sandra Fluke’s call for contraception coverage in health insurance as a sense of “entitlement” – as she allowed a guest to slut shame Fluke? Or how Kelly made her resentment plain when the Susan G. Komen foundation reversed its decision, after a public outcry, to cut funding to Planned Parenthood? We remember. Coincidently, supporting Mitt Romney and slamming Sandra Fluke and Planned Parenthood are all consistent with the Fox News Party line.
So color me a tad resistant to the idea of Kelly as any kind of brave truthteller, even if she is a working Mom herself who undoubtedly took personal exception to Erickson’s comments. Don’t get me wrong. I give Kelly credit for her plain-spoken, no-nonsense shattering of Erickson’s argument. But I seriously doubt she did it without support from management.
Earlier this week, Salon.com published an excerpt from “Fox mole” Joe Muto’s memoir about his years as an O’Reilly Factor producer. In it, he says:
Theoretically, each show could talk about whatever they wanted to talk about, and take any angle they wanted to take, and book any guest they wanted to have on.
Realistically, there was tremendous pressure to hew closely to the company line. The Second Floor monitored the content of every show very closely. Each show was required to submit a list of all the guests and all the topics well before the fact; the list would be reviewed by one of the relevant vice presidents. Most of the time, this was just a formality — as I said, the showrunners knew their boundaries — but every once in a while, a certain guest or topic would set off alarm bells on the second floor, leading to a series of increasingly urgent and unpleasant e-mails and phone calls for the showrunner.
So clearly, Fox management would have been well aware what Kelly wanted to do in her segment. You’ll also note that at one point, she chides Lou Dobbs for going beyond the agreed-upon boundaries of the discussion – working mothers – to discuss unwed mothers. Another sign that Kelly’s stance had been reviewed and approved (at least to some extent) from above. It also suggests that Kelly wasn’t so interested in sticking up for anyone outside of her own personal purview.
So why would Fox News – so notoriously forbidding of “shooting in the tent” – allow one of its star anchors to do exactly that? Well, it could be they wanted to assuage Kelly’s outrage. But it also could be that they knew it would take the heat off them for promoting such sexist views in the first place. Search “Erick Erickson” on Google News right now and let’s just say he’s not making Fox look really good. So rather than fire him or publicly chastise him, just four months after they hired him, and look like they caved to public pressure (because Fox News brass surely knew what they were getting when they hired him), Fox could rehab their own image by having someone grab the headlines back with some flashy, splashy, internet-eyeball grabbing “We’re not your father’s Republican Party” theatrics. Plus, Kelly gave Fox a dollop of long-lost credence for its “fair and balanced” motto. “See, we’re not sexist, we’re unafraid of debate!” I can assure you, Fox Newsies will hold up this segment every time someone criticizes the network over Erickson’s comments from now on.
So I’ll give Kelly props for how she handled the matter. But I think the segment needs to be taken in context. Part of that context is that Fox is still a very sexist operation that Kelly, apparently, has no qualms working within. Recently, I posted a video mashup from Media Matters showing just how sexist it is. That video is the second video below, underneath the one of Kelly, Erickson and Dobbs. Also, as Matt Gertz at Media Matters recently wrote, Erickson is “a man who makes offensive comments about women. That’s who Fox hired, and apparently what they were looking for.” The other part of that context is that Kelly’s supposedly bold stance was 100% in Fox News’ own interests.
(4/21/19 update: The video of Kelly with Dobbs and Erickson is now available at Mediaite.)
I agree with you 100% about Kelly prepping for prime time. She’s taken a big turn toward toeing the Fox line lately – and I don’t think it becomes her. I’m guessing it will happen when she comes back from maternity leave, but maybe later.
One more reason why I think her segment was done with Fox approval and that she would not have gone rogue.
As for Powers, she strikes me as a straight shooter. I don’t know how much, if anything, she does to stay in Fox’s good graces. She can be terrific on Fox and she has been several times since that confrontation with Peterson (I think she’s usually good with O’Reilly, e.g.). Why she buys into so many Fox News memes, I don’t get at all.
Maybe I can ask Muto for an interview when the book comes out and ask him about pressure on the contributors.
Yes, like I said, I read the article. But
Obviously the news segments are also highly biased. Nonetheless the anchors themselves have claimed that they are treated differently. So, I still don’t think we know for certain that Megyn Kelly is subject to the same exact pressure as other opinion anchors. It’s possible, but I don’t see it’s conclusively demonstrated. My guess is that Kelly knows what is expected of her but she doesn’t get as much overt pressure as the opinion personalities.
Kelly’s become such a go-to on network messes because, at one point, even the rest of Fox couldn’t seem to figure out her manipulation method. If Ailes didn’t overuse her on certain tactics, we’d still be at the “she doesn’t seem like a very competent lawyer, but…” stage.
But that’s exactly how she became such a tell. Nowadays, the second she weighs in against the right, half of us are looking for everything out of character in the segment, the other half are digging up her history of all the times she was permissive of it from everyone but Fox News targets.
Yes, I should have been a little more specific about Kirsten Powers’ eruption at Jesse Lee Peterson. That was the moment I was referencing. I believe strongly that she was talked to very quickly after that appearance and told to tone it down. I don’t know this for a fact, but her status as a paid contributor on multiple Fox News shows cannot have been helped by her essentially taking over a segment on Hannity’s show. I find it interesting that since that time she’s mostly toed whatever line Hannity or O’Reilly or whoever is peddling each week. Like I said, I don’t know this for a fact, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence.
Regarding Megyn Kelly, the more I think about her situation at Fox News, the more I conclude that she’s been positioning herself to take over Greta’s timeslot when that comes up. Assuming that ratings trends hold over the next couple of years, I could easily see Kelly getting the cushy primetime gig either just before the 2016 Election hijinks get going, or just after that business is concluded. For this reason, I agree with your statements – she’s going to be careful about what she does on the air to not jeopardize that position. I doubt you’ll see her go off the handle like she did with Powers a couple of years back about the Black Panthers. I’d expect her to be on her best behavior, and if she needs to vent like this, I’m sure she’s had it approved by the higher-ups.
Kelly’s behavior on Election Day was very much in line with her bosses. What she did well, IMO, was to validate Fox and still allow Rove to save face as much as possible. Once Fox calls a race, she surely knew her role was to defend the call – and still give cred to Rove. So while it may have been her idea to visit the brain room or whatever they called it, I’m sure she was very mindful of what her bosses would have wanted.
I agree that Powers was acting on her own. For one thing, Powers is a contributor, not a host, so I think she gets more leeway from that. I’m assuming you’re talking about the segment where she confronted Jesse Lee Peterson. In that case, I think Powers was genuinely surprised to see him there. She said as much. My guess is that the pre-screening process for the show did not reveal to her who she’d be arguing against. She also said during the discussion that she was not aware she’d be appearing with him.
You are free to interpret what Muto meant. But he SAID “each show” and “every show” when referring to the scrutiny from management of topics and guests, not “each opinion host” or “every opinion show.” In fact, nowhere in the published excerpt does he qualify that assertion. Also, Kelly hinted that the debate had been pre-approved in her own comments, as I outlined above.
If you have information that Fox does not practice the same oversight with its news shows, please show us the specifics. Otherwise, while it’s true there are differences between Fox news shows and opinion shows (though not their bias, I’d argue), I think there’s no reason to doubt my contention that this debate was pre-approved by Fox management and was not some kind of rogue commentary by Kelly.
That isn’t to say that Second Floor doesn’t influence the news anchors as well
I still appreciate watching Megyn Kelly take the occasional potshots, but I realize that it’s almost unheard of to see a Fox News anchor, pundit or commentator go totally off the reservation. I’m sure that Kelly’s bosses knew what she was going to do in both situations where she’s called someone out like this, and I’m sure they approved it exactly on the basis that they could flaunt the exchange as proof of how supposedly unbiased they are.
I have a feeling that the explosion by Kirsten Powers on Hannity last year was something that they may not have expected but tried to exploit. And I’ve noted that Powers has been toeing the party line a lot closer ever since.
The issue that happened with Karl Rove on Election Night was something that I believe the Fox News higher ups were happy to see – they were clearly displeased with Rove for having sold them a load of complete bs, and they were happy to extend his moment of public humiliation. (Of course, with Dick Morris, they didn’t have much in the way of long term ties to want to hang on to him after he completely discredited himself.)
First of all, you are wrong in your description of the article/excerpt I quoted (which was from Salon.com, not Slate). It was very clear that the second floor maintains control over anchors. For one thing, in the quote I used, it says: “The Second Floor monitored the content of every show very closely. Each show was required to submit a list of all the guests and all the topics well before the fact; the list would be reviewed by one of the relevant vice presidents.”
That means the Second Floor almost certainly knew what the subject of the segment would be. Clearly, it is not only referring to pundits. Furthermore, the article/excerpt also says:
Some anchors and producers had enough juice — proportional to the size of their audience, generally — to push back against the Second Floor’s mandates, with varying levels of success, though even O’Reilly, who had more juice than anyone, could only do so much. When one of his favorite guests, a fiery, young, liberal African American college professor, was banned, agreement with the Second Floor allowing him to continue to use the guy as long as his appearances were limited to once a month. O’Reilly wasn’t happy with it, but it was better than walking away empty-handed.
There was nothing Bill hated more than management impositions on his show.
In other words, management impositions are made on hosts as well as guests.
I did not say that Megyn Kelly’s comments were dictated by management (or not). I said the segment and her stance was almost certainly pre-approved and that while she appeared to be drifting from the “party line” and going rogue, she was not. In reality, she was actually serving the network well.
This woman is biased and untrustworthy and loves the exposure and money she receives.So lets not put a crown upon her head ,not even a tarnished one.
And by personally, I don’t mean it offended her as a working mother, or her health care rights. I mean personally, as in she probably heard Erickson use her name in a sexist break room “joke” before she got asked if she wanted to weigh in on the air.
Momo, where has Ellen been spiteful? She made a whole article giving Kelly credit, then she emphasized that she thinks Kelly deserves credit in this instance.
You want someone who thinks Kelly should be held in full skepticism? Yo. I brought up her record on the other thread, I brought it up on my social media, I brought it up as a talking point professionally. And I made sure everyone knew exactly how I feel.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering where Momo came from, Peach’s name is “Lady Momo” in Japan. Don’t take it personally, I just infinitely prefer her Japanese name… It has a better ring, and a certain mystique.