Fox's Megyn Kelly attempted to justify her insistence that Santa Claus was a white man, accusing critics of blowing her remarks out of proportion and targeting the network.
Kelly sparked widespread outrage this week when she insisted to “kids watching at home” that, like Jesus, Santa Claus is a white man. Her remarks came during a discussion on The Kelly File about a post by Slate's Aisha Harris, which detailed the alienation Harris felt as a child reconciling the ubiquitous images of a white Santa with the black Santa she experienced in her own neighborhood.
On December 13, Kelly defended her 'white Santa' comments as a “tongue-in-cheek message” for kids, which she argued was justified because she was merely acknowledging that “we continually see Saint Nick as a white man in modern day America.” She also blamed critics of Fox News for ginning up the controversy by race-baiting and assuming “the worst in people” :
KELLY: This would be funny if it were not so telling about our society, in particular the knee-jerk instinct by so many to race-bait and to assume the worst in people, especially people employed by the very powerful Fox News Channel.
I acknowledged -- as Harris did -- that the most commonly depicted image of Santa does in fact have white skin. By the way I also did say Jesus was white. As I learned in the last two days, that is far from settled. For me, the fact that an offhand jest I made during a segment about whether Santa should be replaced by a penguin has now become a national firestorm says two things. Race is still an incredibly volatile issue in this country, and Fox News, and yours truly are big targets for many people.
Later in the program, Kelly hosted political analyst Zerlina Maxwell to discuss the 'white Santa' controversy. Maxwell explained that her family, like Harris', had a black Santa in their household when she was young. Rather than attempting to identify with Maxwell, Kelly responded that many Fox viewers took issue with the suggestion that a white Santa could alienate black children, asking, “Why is white skin alienating? And why is that not racist?” :
KELLY: We didn't really get to debate Ms. Harris' position which was we need to think about changing the image of Santa. But that, too, has brought a lot of feelings out by a lot of our viewers saying, look, historically, all those pieces I referenced, all those pieces Ms. Harris referenced, showed a white Santa. And some people are taking issue with her suggestion that the mere color of his skin in these portrayals as white is somehow alienating to black children or, as she put it, causes shame in them.
MAXWELL: It is alienating to black children.
KELLY: Why? Why is white skin alienating? And why is that not racist?
Kelly bills herself as a “straight news” anchor for Fox News. But Kelly's reporting has been marked by aggressive defenses of positions that mirror her own experience and criticism of the less familiar, a habit manifest in her decision to double down on her 'white Santa' rhetoric.