Megyn Kelly Derangement Syndrome

Kelly at the Republican presidential debate in Des Moines, Ia., January 2016. (Reuters photo: Carlos Barria)
Kelly has taken unfair criticism from both sides of the political aisle simply for doing her job.

Is there any American journalist more unfairly maligned than Megyn Kelly? You’d be hard-pressed to come up with one. Over the past 18 months or so, she’s been besieged from both sides of the political aisle, and there seems to be no end to the deranged fervor of her critics.

It all started, of course, on August 6, 2015, at Fox News’s GOP presidential primary debate, for which Kelly was one of the moderators. She asked then-candidate Donald Trump a tough but fair question about controversial statements he had made in the past about women. It was a perfectly reasonable question, given that the Republican nominee would probably end up facing Hillary Clinton, the first female major-party nominee in American history, in the general election. And it got under Trump’s famously thin skin in a big way.

Trump was so inexplicably incensed over the question that he embarked on a nine-month-long vendetta against Kelly, then a Fox News anchor. He routinely took personal shots at her, trashed her character and professionalism, motivated his legion of social-media fans to harass her and boycott her show, and even ditched a later debate co-moderated by her just prior to the Iowa Caucus.

As Kelly described in her book, Settle for More, and also in a must-see C-SPAN interview last year, the hostility aimed at her evolved into death threats, and she and her family were forced to live with a 24/7 private-security detail for well over a year. Kelly has said she received little support from her Fox News colleagues, who ostracized her in the wake of the Trump ordeal and after she came forward with allegations of being sexually harassed by former network head Roger Ailes. A top network insider told the Drudge Report in December that Kelly was “despised” by fellow on-air personalities, something that wasn’t exactly a secret behind the scenes at Fox. Some of her colleagues even openly resented her challenging of Trump and her allegations against Ailes on television and social media.

To her credit, Kelly never wavered in her firm coverage of Trump, even as others at her network  effectively turned their shows into infomercials for the candidate. But she herself has said that the entire ordeal was, “not an appropriate price to pay for hard-hitting journalism,” and she’s absolutely right.

One can only imagine, then, how much easier Kelly’s last months at Fox made her eventual decision to leave the network for NBC News once her contract expired. Sure, she wanted a work schedule that allowed her to spend more time with her family, as she had stated publicly many times, but getting away from her dysfunctional network family might have seemed just as important.

A fresh start can be a very good thing, especially when you’ve been repeatedly dragged into high-profile controversies you never wanted any part of. And there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic about Kelly’s future. She built a strong viewership at Fox, her book was a smash hit, and her mainstream appeal should earn her many new fans once she returns to television. But even though her new gig at NBC has yet to begin, she has already become the focus of fresh hysterics — this time from the left.

People claim they yearn for honest, hard-hitting coverage and analysis, but far too many reserve their most impassioned disdain for those who actually give it to them.

Last month, reportedly to make room for Kelly’s planned morning program, the third hour of the Today show was canceled. Because that hour was hosted by Tamron Hall (who left the network over the cancelation) and Al Roker, who are both black, the move is being deemed racist by critics.

Accusations that NBC is in the process of “whitewashing” its morning lineup have been running rampant on the Internet, with Essence even putting out the headline ”Accommodating Megyn Kelly at the Expense of 2 Prominent Black Anchors Sure Seems Like a Nod to Trump’s America.” Piling on, the National Association of Black Journalists released a statement saying that “Kelly has a well-documented history of offensive remarks regarding people of color.” As proof of that “history,” the organization cited Kelly’s on-air description of Michelle Obama’s Tuskegee University commencement speech as pandering to a “culture of victimization.”

Caitlin Flanagan of The Atlantic, in a piece this week, described Kelly as having a knack for taunting some of her Fox News guests “until they snapped,” claiming that she regularly applied that technique to black activists and thus “contributed to an ugly mood that was the hallmark of Fox all last year: one of white aggrievement at a country gone mad, led by a radical black president supported by irrational black protesters who were gaining power.”

A Google News search of headlines since the beginning of the year reveals many more charges that Kelly is a racist, with equally eye-rolling “evidence.” It’s all quite amazing. In this era of “fake news,” Kelly has remained a rare voice of integrity and intellectual consistency. It certainly would have been easier for her, on multiple occasions, to compromise her principles for the sake of her career — something several of her peers have clearly been more than willing to do over the past two years. Yet she seems to take more heat than even the most obvious news-media sycophants and hyper-partisan bomb-throwers.

Something’s very wrong with this picture. It is fashionable to complain that there aren’t enough good, ethical individuals willing to enter the political arena and represent us, and we all know why this is the case: Good people don’t want to subject themselves and their families to such a dirty, damaging business. The same can now be said about journalism. People claim they yearn for honest, hard-hitting coverage and analysis, but far too many reserve their most impassioned disdain for those who actually give it to them. Here’s hoping Kelly sticks to her guns and keeps giving it to them anyway.


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