In an interview with The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple Blog, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly -- who is reportedly competing for a new contract among networks -- downplayed her role in pushing the pseudo-scandal that the Department of Justice was covering up voter intimidation by the New Black Panther Party and admitted she could not name any African-American people on her staff.
In 2010, Kelly devoted more than 3.5 hours of her then-show America Live to hyping a contrived scandal about the Justice Department. The claim was that the department engaged in racially charged “corruption” in its handling of voter-intimidation claims about two members of the New Black Panther Party who appeared in a video standing outside a Philadelphia polling station during the 2008 election, one of them holding a nightstick; the other was a registered Democratic poll watcher. No one came forward to say he or she was intimidated by the two men. The story resurfaced during the 2016 election when supporters of Donald Trump used it to defend his false “rigged election” claim.
Kelly was sharply criticized for her sensationalistic coverage of the supposed scandal, with Dave Weigel -- then of The Atlantic -- calling Kelly’s coverage a “minstrel show.” Kelly’s focus on the Black Panthers constitutes just one part of her consistently insensitive and out-of-touch coverage on race issues.
During the interview, Wemple asked Kelly if it was a “fair reading” to use the Black Panthers incident to justify “Trump’s claims of the possibility of a rigged election.” Wemple, linking to Media Matters’ research in the transcript, also asked Kelly if her “pushing” of the incident “is where people draw their memory from,” to which Kelly responded, “next question.” Kelly also conceded that her show The Kelly File may not employee any African-Americans “at the moment.” Kelly’s deflection on her record comes as she is reportedly competing for contracts between networks. From the December 19 article:
[ERIK WEMPLE BLOG]: I was interested to see the photographs in your book. And you have a photograph of your staff and it sprung a question for me: You do all kinds of aggressive coverage, including on race. That staffing picture looked pretty much white, although there could be a couple of minorities in there. Do you think that for as aggressive as you are on racial issues, that you could use more diversity on the staff?
[MEGYN] KELLY: Well, I don’t know about the first part of your question. That’s not the reason. The reason to have more racial diversity on any team is because it’s helpful to have different perspectives on any issue. And I also believe that. It’s easier said than done, unfortunately. At Fox we started — this is one of Roger’s good legacies, the Ailes Apprentice Program, and that’s been pretty good about getting more people of color into the TV news ranks. But we don’t have enough, that’s just a fact. We don’t. And we can do better at that, just like most of the news networks can.
EWB: Do you have anyone who’s African American on the staff at this point?
KELLY: Not at the moment. Don’t hold me to that, Erik, because I’m probably forgetting somebody. Definitely we have some crew who work with me who are African American but . . . to be perfectly honest with you, I have never asked. We . . . have a couple of mixed-race people . . . I don’t know if they identify as mixed race or African American, so I don’t want to guess.
EWB: Obviously you know a lot about the whole New Black Panther issue, Philadelphia; you were famous for that. I didn’t see much mention in the book, but now, eight years later, a couple CNN pro-Trump commentators cited that incident sort of in the context of Trump talking about a rigged election. Do you think that’s a fair reading of the New Black Panther issue, sort of as grist for justifying Trump’s claims of the possibility of a rigged election?
KELLY: What do you mean, that guys like those New Black Panthers [inaudible] at the polls?
EWB: I believe Kayleigh McEnany said something to the effect that Trump “doesn’t want a scenario where there’s New Black Panthers outside with guns, essentially like intimidating people from coming into the polls.”
KELLY: That was not a widespread incident as far as we knew. That was a couple of rabble-rousers who showed up causing a bunch of nonsense at one Philadelphia polling station. I wouldn’t say you could extrapolate that to a general concern, especially because I don’t believe we saw it again in 2012. I believe it was these two guys trying to make a point in 2008; their point was made and I assume they understood the ramifications of it after the Department of Justice got involved.
EWB: Do you think that your pushing that incident is where people draw their memory from?
KELLY: Come on, Erik, next question.
EWB: No? I just wondered. I mean, you did scores of segments on it.
KELLY: You should take those scores of segments numbers with a huge grain of salt because that was some tabulation done by Media Matters that included teases. Teases!