Vanity Fair's Evgenia Peretz wrote a glowing cover story on Megyn Kelly for the February edition of the magazine, praising her as “the brightest star at Fox News” and even a “feminist icon of sorts.” Nearly a month later, Peretz followed up with some of the less laudatory aspects of Kelly's right-wing rhetoric that was left out of the original piece, noting that Kelly and GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump “have more in common than you think” and that Kelly's “talent for fearmongering may be even more insidious than Trump's own.”
Peretz's original profile was the latest in a series of laudatory profiles that similarly describe Kelly as someone who “buck[s] the conservative party line” while often ignoring her history of problematic coverage. One such example is how Kelly has obsessed about issues surrounding race, including the New Black Panther Party, to which she devoted “45 segments and 3.5 hours to hyping politically motivated and completely discredited allegations” during a two-week stretch of time. Kelly's history of inflammatory remarks about minorities, such as calling a 14-year-old black girl who was violently manhandled by a police officer “no saint either,” has been well documented.
In the midst of Donald Trump dropping out of Fox's January 28 Republican debate over Kelly's role as a moderator, Peretz penned another piece: “Megyn Kelly And Donald Trump Have More In Common Than You Think.” In a sharp contrast, Peretz includes what was left out of the original profile, that “Kelly, like Trump, is not above playing to her audience's fears on dog-whistle topics when it suits her.” As an example, Peretz writes that she questioned Kelly over the Black Lives Matter movement during her original interview, whose protesters Kelly called “obviously beyond the bounds of decency.” This was not published in Peretz's high-profile cover story. Peretz also acknowledges what was inadvertently apparent in her original piece, that Kelly's “talent for fearmongering may be even more insidious than Trump's own. She, after all, is considered by many to be the reasonable one at Fox”:
As I wrote in my cover profile about her, Kelly is seeking to accomplish something far greater with her career than simply staring down Trump: she would like to become an influential and sought-after interview host, akin to Charlie Rose, or even Oprah Winfrey. To pull that off, she has strived to prove she can handle our thorniest national issues with the nuance and measure that they require, and not just her trademark “toughness.” Yet Kelly, like Trump, is not above playing to her audience's fears on dog-whistle topics when it suits her.
One of these topics--the Black Lives Matter movement--came up during the course of our interview for my piece. Kelly's perspective on the the issue was pointedly firm. “They're going out there and yelling in the cop's face 'Pigs in a blanket. Fry 'em like bacon.' It's obviously beyond the bounds of decency,” she said of the protestors. “You don't want to say that, that's your business. If you think that's not an Edward R. Murrow moment, great. Good for you. Enjoy being that anchor. I'm a different kind of anchor.” It seemed like classic Kelly defiance, but fair enough. There is a radical component to any protest movement, and reasonable people can debate how much media attention should be given to the fringe.
Kelly has chided guests for “adding to the hate,” but in these moments, her talent for fearmongering may be even more insidious than Trump's own. She, after all, is considered by many to be the reasonable one at Fox.
If Kelly truly wants to improve the level of discourse in this country, to elevate the conversation and indeed lay claim to the mantle of Rose or Winfrey, tomorrow night's debate--Trump or no Trump--is a good place to start. Indeed, Kelly told me that she has a “spiritual side,” under-utilized at Fox, that she would like to dig into in the future. “I'm not talking about self-help exactly, but just the improvement of one's life. Those segments are interesting to me, how to improve one's own life and our world and our children's world.” Perhaps she can tap into that.