Megyn Kelly is garnering another wave of misplaced praise, benefiting from Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump's latest attacks on her. But outside of the debate scene, Kelly's role on Fox News is little more than to shill for conservative misinformation.
Journalists and pundits across the political spectrum are stepping up to defend the Fox News anchor after Trump labeled her a “lightweight journalist” leading up to Fox News' January 28 GOP primary debate, which he declined to participate in. Kelly's defenders have called out the sexism in Trump's attacks while lauding her as a “real journalist willing to stick her neck out to defend the vulnerable.” But in doing so, they have bought into the distorted persona she has carefully crafted for herself -- that of the credible journalist, distinct from other Fox figures who are more obviously partisan.
That image has been bolstered by a series of glowing profiles of Kelly that describe her as a “take-no-prisoners newswoman” who “isn't afraid to throw hardballs at Republicans” and have called her “the brightest star at Fox News” who “transcends politics with her skillful skewering of windbags of both parties.” Fox helped Kelly reinforce that image in Fox's first GOP primary debate, where Kelly posed a series of tough questions to the candidates -- most notably challenging Trump on his history of sexism -- and persuaded many of the 24 million viewers that she is a serious journalist. Fox's January 28 GOP debate will likely provide yet another opportunity for Kelly to amplify this deceptive image by deviating from her usual bigotry and right-wing misinformation to ask tough questions while all eyes are on her.
The media is right to call out the sexism of Trump's attacks on Megyn Kelly, but to argue that she is a serious, legitimate journalist while doing so misses the mark.
Outside of Fox's debate scene, Kelly has repeatedly used her authority to prop up conservative misinformation from The Kelly File's anchor desk. In the first two weeks of 2016, she spent over 1 hour and 22 minutes promoting Michael Bay's myth-filled Benghazi movie as “the gripping new film that may pose a threat to Hillary Clinton's hopes for the White House.” Kelly regularly hosts the leader of an anti-LGBT hate group, and has a long history of offensive, discriminatory comments about minorities.
Kelly has also used her primetime Fox show to push falsehoods about Planned Parenthood, most recently asking whether the grand jury indictment of two members of the group that released deceptively edited smear videos to attack the organization was a “political hit job.” Kelly once told Charlie Rose she's “not an opinion maker,” yet she has repeatedly advocated for conservative causes and spread misinformation -- and has gotten away with it because there are journalists willing to call her credible.