First off, Megyn Kelly’s gambit on Halloween blackface was monstrous and ignorant, although how much of each is anyone’s guess. What follows is not any kind of defense. I’m pretty sure I disagree with Kelly on everything except #metoo.
I was going to post a Halloween story this week, but then I got indignant watching the Today show Saturday morning. There was quite a lot of warm hoopla welcoming Peter Alexander as Weekend Today co-anchor. It was quite a genuine little love fest, and I couldn’t help comparing it with the ostensible welcome afforded Megyn Kelly last September.
Acquiring her was a catastrophic move for NBC, and maybe she was blindly acquisitive to accept. Maybe the recent rumors of complaints from her staff are true. But so far as I know, she didn’t deliberately unseat Al Roker and Tamron Hall (go Owls!) from Today’s 9 o’clock hour, but I do remember the move being decried as whitewashing the highly successful timeslot of two black co-hosts. I speak from a place of utter ignorance here, so please recognize that everything I say is conditioned by: “It seems to me.”
It was no accident I turned on Today yesterday morning; I’m a fan in an innocuous background noise kind of way. I sort of like these people I don’t know. But since Kelly’s arrival I’ve felt much of the Today family, along with a preponderance of the ever-circling media, struggling to expel her like the wicked stepsister at the wedding. Oh, not with deliberate intent, yet obviously, and it made me squirm.. That’s only my perception, of course, but my perceptions are pretty trustworthy.
I’ve written about virtue hoarders and virtue thieves; think about Jane Fonda’s pretense of outrage at a maybe/maybe not inappropriate question. It was sheer moralistic opportunism. (I know, I can hear the rebuttals and granted, but my point has nothing to do with plastic surgery or even interview tactics, only false outrage.) And then the fatal absence of A- or even B-list celebrities who were all too busy making a statement to engage in necessary, rational discussion. Still, on those few occasions I’ve caught Kelly’s show, I was impressed by her stubborn ability to put together an interesting hour without celebrity nonsense. It was awkward, and she was trying way too hard to be likeable, but I also thought her rather valiant.
There’s been so much satisfaction flooding the media this week, all the pundits have confirmed the opinions of their loyal followers, but there have been few insights or even questions asked. Surely there’s more to this story than scoring a political win and some Twitter schadenfreude? The treatment afforded Kelly by many at Today and in the always-delightful entertainment industry was vicious, petty, vindictive, incredibly shortsighted and literally dangerous, the self-indulgent disregard of the ethical and urgent in favor of the personal. It’s nothing short of a determined undermining of journalistic ethics, with all that implies.
I’m hearing that we can’t afford tolerance in these extreme times because, you know, you can’t fight for what’s right and respect your enemy at the same time. We need rage, which excludes true dialogue (and true dialogue does not mean filling cable time with talking heads representing both sides of a blatantly unequal argument). Kelly’s separation from NBC was inevitable; her lack of likeability and the near-universal celebrity blackballing saw to that. But just as inevitably those who can’t admit to rampant hypocrisy and self-righteousness are doomed to keep living with rampant hypocrisy and self-righteousness.
So thanks for trying, guys.
Maybe it was a Halloween story after all.
Photos: Dean Hochman skulls (CC BY 2.0) / Megyn Kelly TODAY Steam Pipe Trunk Distribution Venue (CC BY 2.0)