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. Caricature of Megyn Kelly by DonkeyHotey, via Creative Commons license.
Crossposted at News Hounds.
We watch Fox so you don't have to!