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  • What Megyn Kelly's Positive Press Tour Keeps Getting Wrong

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL & BRENNAN SUEN

    The Fox News PR machine has capitalized on Megyn Kelly's charade as a debate moderator, parlaying it into high-profile interviews on late night talk shows and morning news shows, and a new book she has in the works promises another round of media attention later this year. These interviews provide the media with an opportunity to question her about the misinformation she promotes on her own show, when she's out of the national spotlight, but few are taking advantage.

    Kelly's supposed persona as a breath of fresh air and an unbiased journalist on Fox News -- bolstered by her position moderating the network's presidential debates -- has led to a series of laudatory profiles that have often willfully ignored her troubled past pushing conservative misinformation and bigotry.

    Kelly has been called a "take-no-prisoners newswoman" who "isn't afraid to throw hardballs at Republicans" and "the brightest star at Fox News." That pretense was reinforced by the journalists and pundits across the political spectrum who stepped up to defend Kelly after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attacked her, kicking off a feud with the network and then declining to participate in its January 28 presidential debate.

    Late night talk shows and morning news shows have not been immune to Kelly's hardball-throwing façade.

    On the February 5 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, host George Stephanopoulos gave Kelly a platform to gratuitously boost her credibility as a political journalist and respond to Donald Trump's attacks without asking about any of her controversial remarks.

    Kelly has also appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and has an upcoming high-profile scheduled appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert's post-Super Bowl episode, as well as a new book deal. In his interview, Fallon told Kelly that he didn't "really know your work as much until I saw you for the first Republican debate -- you were fantastic in that ... People that don't know you have to be like, 'Oh who is this person? She's phenomenal.'"

    Megyn Kelly's so-called "phenomenal" reputation in the media lacks important context, found in the full spectrum of her time at Fox, including her problematic history on subjects including race and gender.

    In the first two weeks of 2016, Kelly spent over 1 hour and 22 minutes promoting Michael Bay's myth-filled Benghazi movie "13 Hours" as "the gripping new film that may pose a threat to Hillary Clinton's hopes for the White House." She's used her prime-time Fox show to push falsehoods about Planned Parenthood, most recently asking whether a "political hit job" was at play in the grand jury indictment of two members of the group that released deceptively edited smear videos to attack the organization.

    She regularly hosts Tony Perkins, the leader of an anti-LGBT hate group, and has shown a penchant for inflammatory rhetoric on race, ranging from blaming a 14-year-old black teenager who was the victim of a police officer's use of excessive force to calling Black Lives Matter protesters "beyond the bounds of decency."

    When positive press praises Kelly's "occasionally, yet highly entertaining, bucking of the conservative party line," they downplay the fact that her show "is made up largely of the kind of stories you'd find on many other Fox News shows." Even the writer of Vanity Fair's glowing cover story, after making those observations, eventually noted 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."

  • A Month Later, The Writer Of Vanity Fair's Fawning Megyn Kelly Cover Finally Writes About The Bad Stuff

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    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.

  • With Donald Trump Abandoning Its Debate, Fox News Scorched By Its Own Chicanery

    Blog ››› ››› ANGELO CARUSONE

    Donald Trump

    GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump backing out of Fox News' debate is a damning indictment of the creature that the right-wing media helped create and that the rest of the media enabled for far too long.

    Not only did Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media manufacture many of the lies that serve as the refrain of Trump's campaign, but they also fomented much of the racial antipathy and sexism that Trump is using to fuel his campaign.

    In this conservative universe, facts don't matter. Which is exactly why Donald Trump can claim that he is backing out of the Thursday's debate due to the fact that Fox News doesn't treat him well, despite the fact that Trump has appeared on Fox News at least two and a half times more than any of his GOP primary opponents. (I'll save the irony of Fox News being burned by the same kind of fact free attacks that the network conditioned its audience to respond to for another day.)

    In his rationale, Trump also cited concerns about the debate being moderated by Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. Trump has openly attacked Kelly since the first Fox News debate in August. But make no mistake, Donald Trump does not have a problem with Megyn Kelly because she's a serious journalist who asks really tough questions (she isn't). Nor is it because she challenges Trump's policies. Remember, Kelly was one of the first media figures to defend Donald Trump's claim that Mexican immigrants are rapists and killers.

    Trump has a problem with Megyn Kelly because at the first Republican primary debate, Kelly asked Trump about his misogyny and his long record of sexists attacks against women. Trump reacted by attacking Kelly, suggesting that she was on her period and subsequently threatening to boycott Fox News.

    Media Matters' John Whitehouse succinctly summed up the connection between the Kelly/Trump dynamic at play here and the right-wing media: "For decades, conservatives have not only made it clear that misogyny is allowed and acceptable, but that any attempts to silence it are wrong." Indeed. In 2012, Rush Limbaugh went on a multi-day tirade against then law school student Sandra Fluke, calling her a "slut," a "prostitute" and demanding that she post sex videos online among other attacks. Instead of condemning the attacks, conservatives lined up to defend Limbaugh's comments (including Megyn Kelly and then presidential candidate Mitt Romney.)

    Kelly's confrontation of Trump's misogyny was inconsistent with the values that the right-wing media audience has been steeped in. In this universe, facts don't matter, sexism is acceptable, and trying to stop misogyny is a punishable offense. Trump made gains within the conservative movement because of his prolific misogynistic offensive against Kelly, not in spite of it. With this latest gambit, I suspect his calculus is that he'll either make additional gains or suffer no consequences.

    Meanwhile, the rest of the news media has enabled Trump's bigoted bullying and chicanery by creating a consequence-free climate for Trump to operate in. Put aside that they have not given the Republican front-runner any meaningful scrutiny consistent with front-runners in previous elections. And, put aside the perverse incentive they advance by rewarding Trump with attention for each drop of vitriol. They have sat mostly idle while Trump intimidates and suppresses the news media in a way not seen in modern politics. Trump has thrown reporters out of events, had security guards threaten journalists not to interview rally attendees and banning entire media outlets from attending his public events. Instead of standing up for their colleagues and profession, the rest of the news media not only ignored Trump's attacks on the 4th Estate, but tripped over each other to give Trump even more attention.

    As this campaign season unfolded, we have seen the coalescence of fact free and consequence free.

    Just a few days ago, Donald Trump (who is fond of reminding people that he often carries a gun on his person) bragged that he believes his supporters are so devoted that he could shoot someone in cold blood in the middle of Fifth Avenue and in cold blood and not suffer any political consequences. Is it any wonder that he thinks he can get away with skipping this debate, especially among an audience that is already conditioned not to care about the facts?