Megyn Kelly’s occasional grilling of Republicans and conservatives doesn’t really bother Fox News brass. Far from apostasy, those interviews — like Kelly’s pointed questioning of Dick Cheney earlier this month — serve as a bulwark against critics who believe its “fair and balanced” mantra to be a joke.
Bill Shine, executive vice president of programming for Fox News, made that very point in an interview published Sunday, observing that Kelly, who was elevated to a coveted primetime slot last year, is much “newsier” than the other slate of opinionated evening hosts.
Her tough interview with Cheney, Shine told The Hollywood Reporter, was just an example of Kelly doing what Kelly does.
“I think it shows who Megyn is,” he said. “She’s a great broadcaster and she’s a great journalist. I think it also shows some of our competition and some of our skeptics what we do over here. I always say a lot of people who don’t like us don’t watch us.”
Megyn Kelly, down-the-middle newswoman. It’s an idea pushed not only by her colleagues, but by Kelly herself. She told Howard Stern in 2010 that she’s “conservative on some things” and “not on others.” The same year, Kelly told GQ that her decision on which stories to cover is “not political.”
In December of last year, during an appearance on “The Tonight Show” to promote her new primetime program “The Kelly File,” she told Jay Leno that she’s “a straight-news anchor” and “not one of the opinion hosts at Fox.”
Kelly asserted in an interview with the Washington Post the same month that she’s “not a political person.”
Her colleague Bill O’Reilly agrees, saying during an appearance at the 92nd Street Y in New York City earlier this month, “Megyn, not an ideologue.”
A smattering of memorable on-air moments has given some credence to this idea. There was her repudiation of Karl Rove on Election Night in 2012, when the former George W. Bush adviser refused to accept Fox’s declaration that President Obama had won. And there was her evisceration last year of conservative pundit Erick Erickson, a Fox News contributor who had lamented the rise in female breadwinners. The Cheney interview, during which she told the former vice president that he “got it wrong” on Iraq, seemed to fall under that tradition.
But Kelly doesn’t always defy the channel’s orthodoxy. She didn’t in 2010, when, according to an analysis by Media Matters, she ran 45 segments over the course of two weeks on a false story about the New Black Panther Party’s supposed intimidation of white voters.
She didn’t in 2011, when she dismissed a University of California-Davis police officer’s pepper-spraying of an Occupy protester. Pepper spray, Kelly told O’Reilly at the time, is a “food product, essentially.”
And she certainly didn’t in December when she inserted herself in Fox’s annual defense of Christmas from secular humanists and the P.C. police, telling all the kids at home that “Santa just is white.” She wasn’t done there, either.
“Jesus was a white man, too. He was a historical figure. That’s a verifiable fact — as is Santa,” Kelly said. “I just want the kids watching to know that. My point is, how do you just revise it in the middle of the legacy of the story and change Santa from white to black?”