Underneath the sheer jaw-droppingness of Megyn Kelly’s confrontation with Newt Gingrich Wednesday night on The Kelly File, there are some significant indicators about the state of the 2016 race, Republicans and Fox News.
For one thing, Kelly clearly got the better of Gingrich and, by extension, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Unlike the sugar-coating of and cheerleading for Trump’s campaign seen elsewhere on Fox, Kelly unambiguously painted him as a loser who has only himself to blame and in large part because he quacks like a serial sexual predator.
It’s not just a reflection of the deep divisions among conservatives in the age of Trump. It’s a reflection of the deep divisions at Fox News, as well. There couldn’t be a bigger contrast between Megyn Kelly and Sean Hannity, the prime time host who follows her. Hannity is so pro-Trump that he has turned off plenty of conservatives. That contrast just got a whole lot starker.
Also, Gingrich, who was under consideration as Trump’s VP pick (with some help from Hannity), is under contract with Fox. So Kelly did not just thumb her nose at the current head of the Republican Party but at her own colleague. Whatever her motives, she must believe her job is safe enough to go after and, frankly, disrespect an august Fox/Republican figure that the hosts still call “Mr. Speaker.”
Nothing says “on the way to has-been” than the kind of treatment Kelly felt free to shell out to Gingrich. Given that there has been tension between her and Hannity, too, recently, he’s got to be taking her treatment of Gingrich at least somewhat personally.
Then there’s the gender gap. Old man Gingrich thought he could pull a fast one pretending that 11 women accusing a presidential candidate of sexual assault and misconduct is no real biggie (though he was happy to impeach an actual president over consensual sex). Whatever else you think of what happened between Gingrich and Kelly, it’s safe to say his effort flopped.
Given Trump’s unpopularity with women, Gingrich’s spin seemed particularly out-of-touch. Even worse was his condescending accusation to Kelly, “You are fascinated with sex and you don’t care about public policy.” His attempt to bully her into calling Bill Clinton a sexual predator probably didn’t do much to bolster his female sensitivity bona fides either.
Before you get all dewy-eyed about Fox turning over a new leaf or conclude that Kelly has given up her old bias, consider this: Kelly’s contract is up in July and she has openly expressed an interest in moving beyond the partisan shoutfests that are Fox’s trademark. So this was probably at least as much about her own rebranding as Fox’s.
But will she stay and help steer Fox into a newer, fresher brand or go off on a different path? A recent article in Vanity Fair indicated she hasn’t made up her mind. For what it’s worth, I’m going to predict she leaves. And as if to prove me right, it was announced today that Kelly will cohost “Live with Kelly [Ripa]” on November 9, the day after the presidential election.
Meanwhile, Fox News 1.0 will be very much in view this Thursday night, when Gingrich appears on Hannity.
In case you missed Kelly vs. Gingrich Wednesday night or just want to see it again, you can watch it above, from the October 25, 2016 The Kelly File.
Crossposted at News Hounds.
We watch Fox so you don't have to!