The New York Times Magazine has profiled Fox phenom Megyn Kelly in their magazine. Unfortunately, reporter Jim Rutenberg was overly swayed by what he called the “Megyn moments” in which Kelly has strayed from the Fox plantation and gone viral. What he seems to have missed is how - often in those same segments - once Kelly has made her calculated-to-go-viral move, she goes right back to Fox talking points and more or less re-affirms them.
From the Times article, called “The Megyn Kelly Moment”:
For those unfamiliar with the phenomenon, a Megyn moment, as I have taken to calling it, is when you, a Fox guest — maybe a regular guest or even an official contributor — are pursuing a line of argument that seems perfectly congruent with the Fox worldview, only to have Kelly seize on some part of it and call it out as nonsense, maybe even turn it back on you. You don’t always know when, how or even if the Megyn moment will happen; Kelly’s political sensibility and choice of subjects are generally in keeping with that of the network at large. But you always have to be ready for it, no matter who you are. Neither Karl Rove nor Dick Cheney have been spared their Megyn moments, nor will the growing field of 2016 presidential aspirants, who can look forward to two years of interrogation on “The Kelly File.” The Megyn moment has upended the popular notion of how a Fox News star is supposed to behave, and led to the spectacle of a Fox anchor winning praise from the very elites whose disdain Fox has always welcomed. In the process, Kelly’s program has not just given America’s top-rated news channel its biggest new hit in 13 years; it has demonstrated an appeal to the younger and (slightly) more ideologically diverse demographic Fox needs as it seeks to claim even more territory on the American journo-political landscape.
The “Megyn moment” in the Cheney interview was this question:
KELLY: Time and time again, history has proven that you got it wrong… in Iraq, sir. You said there was no doubt Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass distraction. You said we would be greeted as liberators. You said the Iraq insurgency was in the last throes, back in 2005. And you said that after our intervention, extremists would have to ‘rethink their strategy of jihad.’ Now, with almost a trillion spent there, with 4,500 American lives lost there, what do you say to those who say you were so wrong about so much?
Surprising, yes. But the rest of the interview was Fox News GOP Promotion 101. After ensuring her YouTube moment, Kelly allowed Cheney to dissemble about the Iraq war and “asked,” “Do you think that President Obama is dangerous?”
A similar thing happened with Dinesh D’Souza just this week. Kelly got left-wing recognition when she forcefully challenged D’Souza for accusing President Obama of not having had “the African American experience.” But she didn’t challenge D’Souza for accusing President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder of “stok(ing) the fires of sometimes racial division and even racial hatred. …So race has become an instrument of exploitation, not of justice.” Instead, Kelly made a point of letting her viewers know she was really on D’Souza’s side by asking him, “How’s that other thing coming along? You out yet?” Not only did Kelly buddy-up to D’Souza there but she hid the fact that D’Souza is currently serving eight months in a community confinement center after pleading guilty to violating campaign finance law.
In fact, the Times itself reveals that at least one “Megyn moment” was completely scripted by Fox. Here’s what Rutenberg wrote about Kelly’s famous “walk down the hall” after Karl Rove challenged Fox’s 2012 Election Night call that President Obama had just won Ohio and, therefore, re-election:
Ailes was prepared, of course. Intentionally or not, Rove was speaking for a portion of the Fox News audience that found the result inconceivable, in part because many Fox News hosts and guests had questioned polls that predicted it. Fox producers had rehearsed a live walk to the “decision desk,” the conference room where Fox’s election analysts did their work, three days earlier. Around 11:30 p.m., with Rove still hanging on to hope, Ailes called the control room from home and told producers to send Kelly in.
That was exactly my suspicion about another “Megyn moment”: her smackdown of Fox’s own Erick Erickson and Lou Dobbs for denigrating “breadwinner moms.” Once again, Kelly got liberal props. But in my June 2013 post on the segment, I theorized that Kelly made her move with Fox’s approval, if not at their direction. For one thing, I noted, Kelly has not been a consistent voice on behalf of women’s issues.
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. …The other part of that context is that Kelly’s supposedly bold stance was 100% in Fox News’ own interests.
Just last night, that same Kelly took a gratuitous swipe at Nancy Pelosi's looks. Think she'd do the same thing with a Republican woman?
In other words, those “Megyn moments” may look impressive and yes, put Kelly’s interview subjects on a momentary hot seat - for the sake of making her look good. But they’re just as cynical and meaningful as Fox’s “fair and balanced" motto.