Megyn Kelly’s widely-panned interview with Donald Trump may have finally awakened the media to the Megyn Kelly we have long known.
Ever since she began sparring with Donald Trump, the mainstream media has been fawning over her as some kind of 21st century, feminist Edward R. Murrow. Vanity Fair titled its recent, glowing profile of her, “Blowhards, Beware: Megyn Kelly Will Slay You Now.”
And it was precisely that myth, which Kelly has carefully cultivated, that was part of her undoing.
As Gabriel Sherman noted today, Kelly clearly hoped her Fox Broadcast special would provide a springboard to something beyond the partisan shoutfests at Fox:
“As the Times recently reported, she’s in the final year of her contract and has been on a media blitz campaigning for a bigger job at Fox or another network. In recent interviews, she’s said her ambition is to be a combination of Oprah, Charlie Rose, and Barbara Walters. The special was essentially a public interview for her next job.”
But Kelly’s show proved that she’s no Oprah, Rose or Walters, at least not yet. In fact, Kelly came across as mainstream Fox News.
"But Kelly’s chummy treatment of Trump may have damaged her brand as tough and fair-minded (this being Fox, the bar was pretty low). Worse, she cozied up to Trump at the very moment Rupert Murdoch decided Fox News will support the GOP front-runner. By lobbing softballs — or, as Times TV critic James Poniewozik described her questions, “airballs” — at Trump, Kelly came across like any other GOP cheerleader at the right-wing network."
This is exactly what we’ve been trying to get across to people ever since Kelly began promoting herself as some kind of different. She’s good at creating YouTube moments that make her seem independent and journalistic but she has always been a Fox in sheep’s clothing.
For example, as I wrote last year when Variety fell for her phony “independence,” I take Kelly’s word that she lacks political ideology. But while she personally may not root for anyone, that has not impeded her willingness to push Fox propaganda. Show me a segment where Kelly yelled at and disrespected a Republican as much as she did Rep. Al Green (D-TX) as he tried to discuss a Congressional Black Caucus “hands up, don’t shoot” protest and I'll reconsider. But I doubt you'll ever find one.
For the record, I believe that Kelly’s bout with Trump has rocked her and put a sour taste in her mouth over her role at Fox. In a more recent interview with Variety, she complained of “brain damage” coming with her job and said it can appeal to “our worst demons, as opposed to our best angels.”
But in the meanwhile, Kelly is still a Fox News prime time anchor and it showed during her Trump interview.
“Megyn Kelly’s much-publicized broadcast special with Donald Trump was supposed to launch the Fox News star into the stratosphere of television anchordom. Instead, the widely panned show seems to have achieved the opposite result: It exposed the extent of her limited mainstream appeal. Kelly drew just 4.8 million viewers on Tuesday night, a number television executives say is a disappointment by any measure. Three senior executives I spoke with say an audience of 9 million would have been a success. ‘Not good for her at all,’ was how one insider put it.”
“In the days since, Kelly has been working to contain the fallout. She took aim at critics on her cable show Wednesday night by deploying an age-old Fox News tactic: claiming the backlash was a result of liberal media bias. But behind the scenes, she is said to be worried about the response. 'She’s very upset with the show reaction, and in hindsight with how it was produced,' one Fox veteran told me.”
You may be surprised to know that I think it’s quite possible Kelly will develop the chops to be a better interviewer. And she was sort of in a no-win situation with Trump given Fox News’ chumminess with him and the expectations raised.
I also believe Kelly is on the cusp of something new in her life. But in the meanwhile, she’s still a Fox News anchor. And it’s long past time people looked beyond her carefully calculated YouTube moments and saw the full picture.
Alyson Camerota and Major Garrett are not really in similar situations to Kelly – unless Kelly is looking to take a major demotion and work as a co-host or a lower level correspondent for another network.
Camerota worked initially in real news, including some work on Ted Koppel’s documentaries in the 90s. She joined Fox News close to its start as a co-host of various news-ish shows and continued as such throughout her time at the network. She never had an AM or prime time show of her own and never really branded herself as a hardline conservative. It appears she was a bit less conservative than her colleagues at Fox News, based on her work as a co-host at CNN since then. She is one of the very rare exceptions in that she has been able to get real work after Fox News, but she also appears to be a fairly open-minded person who fits in wherever she works.
Major Garrett is a different story. He was never even a co-host at Fox News – he was always a political correspondent, known for extremely hard right wing views. His various books about the greatness of the GOP should be a quick indicator of that one, as should his early association with the Washington Times. I’m amazed that CBS agreed to hire him as a correspondent, given his track record. The foolhardiness of that choice became obvious last summer when he embarrassed himself at a presser with President Obama and was publicly scolded for it. If anything, Garrett is a good object lesson in why Fox News personalities are not suitable to be hired in real journalism ventures. But again, he was never a solo host of anything on any of these networks.
Megyn Kelly is her own story – as discussed by Joe Muto, she’s actually an extremely smart person who may not in fact be as conservative as she acts on camera. But she made a specific choice to join Fox News in 2003 and has spent virtually her entire media career there. This was frankly a smart choice for her financially – Fox News did extremely well during the W Bush years and she was looking to become a media star, not a journalist. Her problem now is that she’s identified with Fox News as a major face of the network. She’s repeatedly said and done things on the air that have been hostile to non-conservatives – which has worked out great for her at Fox News but make her unsuitable to, say, anchor the CBS Evening News. The viewers couldn’t ever take her seriously. And this interview show has demonstrated that she doesn’t have the chops for that. It’s a specific skill set that Barbara Walters really honed – Kelly has never developed that, and didn’t realize she needed it.
It’s interesting that we can find a few odd cases here and there of people who worked at Fox News going to work at other networks. Yes, there have been politicians and consultants who have jumped around the various networks – Gingrich, Dobbs, Dick Morris, etc. But when it comes down to the on-air personalities and even many of the behind-the-scenes people, it’s not often you find Fox News people getting big opportunities at real news organizations. And that’s because they have a bad political odor to them – they were knowingly working for a nasty propaganda operation under the thumb of Roger Ailes. It’s very very hard to unring that bell.
It’s Faux News purgatory with no heaven beyond.
Soon she will have to make a choice. She can be a right wing hack forever on Fox or she can follow the Barbara Walters route. The former might make her more money but the latter would give her something she currently doesn’t have — the respect of her peers.
“Blackroots Barbie chose to be a right-wing Fux Noise hack rather than a responsible journalist.”
Dear truman: Always remember this ancient proverb:
FOLLOW THE $$$$!
It is no surprise “NCIS” walloped in the highest ratings for the evening.
And to think I could have watched Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on ESPN.
Will never watch this show again!!
I think Megyn Kelly is a hot commodity in Megyn Kelly’s eyes.
I do think that someone like Shepard Smith might actually be able to parlay his work at Fox News into a news anchor position at CNN or somewhere else, but he’s an exception. All the others have allowed partisanship and Roger Ailes’ talking points to overwhelm any actual news instincts they might have had.
Kelly made her choice when she launched herself at Fox News in the 2000s. Her bad behavior there has made it impossible for another network to ever be able to bring her on unless they wanted to have a show with “that right wing Republican”. It’s possible that some network might want to do so, but only if she was willing to accept that branding.
I agree with you – this interview show was intended to be her jump to a mainstream position, where she could be paid a LOT more money to be a “people’s interviewer” of the rich, powerful and newsworthy. As we can see, it backfired badly. Her appeal is obviously limited to the same right wing audience that has enjoyed her punditry at Fox News over the past decade. Which means there’s no way that Fox or anyone else will give her that opportunity. It is unfortunate for her that the flop happened at the moment she needed a big win – for her negotiations.
This will either result in her being forced to take a smaller deal than she wanted with Fox News (I’m sure Ailes will give her a raise, but not the big boffo one she wants) or she’ll play the “I’m taking a hiatus” game. My instincts say it will be the former – she’s not going to walk away from what is still a well-paid gig at a network that does support her. At the same time, my instincts say that Bill O’Reilly is quietly happy to see that she’s not likely to challenge him in the manner she was intending.