Here's Megyn Kelly's report on the last night's news that the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility has concluded an extensive investigation and determined that Obama administration DOJ attorneys engaged in no “professional wrongdoing” in their handling of the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case:
Oh, I'm sorry, that's actually her report on the allegation of a “studio cover-up” about how much dancing Natalie Portman did in the making of the movie Black Swan (In what I am sure is a coincidence, Black Swan was produced by fellow Newscorp affiliate Fox Searchlight Pictures, and the film's DVD was released yesterday). Kelly offered absolutely no coverage today of OPR's complete dismissal of the story that last year she essentially tried to make into the Watergate to her Woodward.
Last July, Kelly claimed that Fox News had “dragged the media kicking and screaming” to the “infamous” New Black Panthers case. Indeed, the story was launched on Kelly's show, with a two-part interview with GOP activist and former DOJ attorney J. Christian Adams in which he was allowed to omit facts, push hearsay allegations, and accuse the Justice Department of racially charged “corruption.”
In less than three weeks, Kelly would devote an incredible 45 segments to the story, more than three and a half hours of coverage, often punctuating her reports with deceptive editing, baseless speculation, and false claims, and leaving out necessary context.
In the days that followed, the Associated Press would note that she covered the story “relentlessly”; Dave Weigel would term her coverage the result of an “obsession” and “crusade” in which her “minstrel show” led to viewers being “driven to fear and distrust of their DOJ by round-the-clock videos of one racist idiot brandishing a nightstick for a couple hours in 2008.”
The reporting from Kelly and others at Fox News led Media Matters' Simon Maloy to identify “the reemergence of a very familiar pattern” which he termed “The Fox Cycle,” in which Fox News picks up a bogus story from right-wingers, trumpets it incessantly, shame the rest of the media into picking it up, and receive pundit plaudits for having been ahead of the curve, until responsible outlets finally get around to debunking the story.
The flaws in Kelly's reporting would eventually be revealed on her own program, first with Kirsten Powers' passionate declaration that Kelly had been “doing the scary black man thing,” and then with Juan Williams' calm dismantling of the story. This wouldn't put a stop to her coverage, but it at least shined a light on its absurdity.
But after being on-air non-stop to report on the allegations, Kelly is nowhere to be found when it's time to report that the story has been debunked. If the claims were true, that would be a story. Now that we know they aren't, it isn't.
It's an interesting journalistic standard to set. But it does leave her with time to report on the Black Swan “scandal.”