The organizers of the Promise Champions Gala, which raises money for a gun violence nonprofit started by families of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre, last night asked Megyn Kelly to step down as a host of its gala tonight in Washington D.C. JP Morgan Chase has also temporarily pulled advertising from her program. That news comes as more and more criticize Kelly for her upcoming NBC interview with talk radio conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who promotes a number of disturbed and inaccurate right-wing fantasies, among them that the parents of the victims of Sandy Hook somehow staged the event to tarnish the Second Amendment.
“I understand and respect the decision of the event organizers but I’m of course disappointed that I won’t be there to support them on Wednesday night,” Kelly said in a statement. “I find Alex Jones’s suggestion that Sandy Hook was ‘a hoax’ as personally revolting as every other rational person does.”
Controversy regarding the interview was to be expected, and was probably calculated. NBC now pays Kelly $15 million, in the hopes that her show Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly will become destination viewing. As the average age of TV viewers creeps ever upward, it’s also probably gambling on her bringing a number of older and more conservative viewers from her former home at Fox News.
Her debut episode, which featured a softball interview with Vladimir Putin, did only fine ratings-wise. So when Kelly tweeted a preview of this weekend’s episode, last Sunday evening it was intended to gin up attention, just maybe not the kind of attention it did.
If you watch the clip, Kelly does not ever agree with Jones, but for many this was beside the point. Even most Republicans find Alex Jones to be ridiculous and repellant. Jones recently lost a battle with Choboni yogurt after alleging “that it was connected to the 2016 sexual assault of a child and a rise in tuberculosis cases.” He was forced to apologize because, as far as anyone can tell, he just made that up. (What his actual problem with yogurt was is anyone’s guess.) This would all be a laughing matter if Jones’ nuts were not inclined toward violence. Jones was forced to apologize too for his role in Pizzagate, the scandal in which a deranged conspiracy theorist fired a semiautomatic weapon inside a Washington D.C. pizza shop owned by John Podesta’s former boyfriend because right-wing media said it was the headquarters of a child sex ring.
By elevating his nonsense to the platform of a network news channel, Kelly gives it legitimacy. Similar criticisms were made of Scott Pelley for doing a profile of the fake news maven Mike Cernovich, which was in some ways worse because 60 Minutes is the paragon of TV news, if such a thing can still be said to exist. TV culture has been profoundly debased by the bar-lowering of Fox News, but one is still meant to throw perfunctory glances toward the rules.
Kelly does herself no favors in the interview clip, pushing back on Jones only moderately. Remember “We Report, You Decide?” That tagline was never, ever true. It was propaganda—brilliant propaganda—that allowed the reporting to be conservative and also cast doubt on all other channels. Kelly acts like she never realized that that was always spin, and here she throws up her hands about the man who happened to wander onto her TV show. She’s no stranger to self-promoting conspiracy theories either. Remember when she implied that Donald Trump tried to poison her?
The Promise Champions Gala raises money for Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit anti-gun violence group founded by the families of the victims of Sandy Hook. It’s a little hard to believe that Kelly thought she could promote her friendly interview with a man who implied these families staged the deaths of their own children and then, three days later, hobnob with those same families. If Kelly was betting on a bit of controversy to drum up ratings she’d better hope it doesn’t blow up in her face.
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