Why the new Fox anchor isn’t being covered and why she should be.
When it was announced in January 2011 that liberal-leaning British TV personality Piers Morgan would be taking Larry King’s spot on CNN, a whirlwind of press coverage followed. First, there was the New York Times profile; then he got the royal treatment from New York magazine, as well as a lengthy piece in Vanity Fair. There was endless coverage of Piers on Gawker, including lots of blog posts devoted to his fake feuds—like the one with Madonna that he invented to get press.
And in August 2008, when Rachel Maddow got her gig at MSNBC, she received similar treatment, including the requisite New York Times Magazine interview, coverage in the Washington Post, and accolades galore from NPR (no shock, there). New York mag also rolled out the red carpet for the left’s newest princess.
Though they certainly weren’t fawning, a year into her (failed) evening news bid, Katie Couric was the subject of 5,000-plus words in New York magazine. And don’t even get us started on Anderson Cooper.
So, where then, is the inescapable coverage of Megyn Kelly, Fox News’ newest prime time anchor, and arguably the station’s most marketable asset? Where is the media blitz that normally comes with a beautiful, brainy woman taking a top slot on major TV network news? Aside from dutiful coverage of her appointment and this week’s debut of The Kelly File (on Tuesday her show beat Maddow’s and Morgan’s ratings combined in the 25–54 age range), a Los Angeles Times profile and some lavish ink from a few fashion mags, including Harper’s Bazaar, is as much attention as Kelly’s gotten. But, still missing: the New York Times Magazine profile, the celebrity treatment in Vogue, the deep dive in the New Yorker, the New York mag cover story. Where, Graydon, is that Vanity Fair piece?
Can you say: “liberal news bias?” It might be one reason why she’s not getting that press.
Perhaps (most) liberal reporters are simply unaware of her existence—Fox is probably not a channel their TV is tuned to. As much as we might hate to side with Sarah Palin, America’s press is left-leaning; the Media Research Center compiled a series of quotes from journalists admitting that their newsrooms are very liberal.
And to add more grist to the mill—Fox has shamed the more liberal networks for their lack of women anchors. Said Kirsten Powers on Twitter: “Worth noting that Fox News is only cable network with two female prime time hosts.” Powers, a moderate Dem who is a Fox contributor, has also written about how the left’s pundits and political writers don’t treat Republican female politicians with the same reverence as they do Democratic counterparts. Looks like this applies to female anchors as well.
But you would think writers (left-leaning or otherwise) would be clamoring to write about Kelly. After all, she’s got a great story—now a mother of three, Kelly was a former lawyer who was doing weekend news segments on a local station when she was plucked from obscurity by Fox News Channel president Roger Ailes. Of all the anchors on Fox, she’s the one who is the most reasonable-seeming. (Of course, this isn’t hard since she’s sandwiched between loudmouths like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity.) Even Jon Stewart sort of likes her. Several of her clips shooting down ridiculous Republican ideas have gone viral. And she’s not afraid to destroy people who spout GOP talking points without any factual basis, including Karl Rove, who she famously asked on election night: “Is this just math you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better or is this real?”
Then, there’s the time she tore into radio host Mike Gallagher who mocked her taking maternity leave—saying that it was a “racket.” Kelly shockingly shared oft-stated-by-liberals stats. “Just in case you didn’t know, Mike, I want you to know that the United States is the only country in the advanced world that doesn’t require paid maternity leave.”
And she ripped into Erick Erickson and Lou Dobbs for their outdated views on family and women in the workplace. She seethed: “I’ll start with you Erick. What made you dominant and me submissive—and who died and made you scientist in chief?”
The other reason she might not be getting the A-list treatment is that, as of now, her show is a bit dull—“playing it straight” in the Fox News playbook means “only booking people who agree with the right-wing story.” And that makes for boring TV, though no less influential.
In a Media Matters article, headlined, “Megyn Kelly is More Dangerous Than Bill O’Reilly,” Simon Mallow wrote: “Kelly does not breathe fire like her prime time cohorts, but she can be every bit as partisan and misleading. The recent comments from Kelly and from the network are part of a deliberate effort to set her apart from the partisanship and moralism of Hannity and O’Reilly and cast her as a voice of factual authority.”
But Tuesday night’s episode operated in an alternate universe—one where the government shutdown didn’t have anything to do with Republicans creating a false crisis. Stories related to the shutdown—fallen soldiers’ families not getting paid, and the Mall in Washington supposedly not being open to military vets but being open to “illegals,” featured talking heads that supported only the “right” side. If you were an uninformed watcher, it would scan as straightforward news simply because there was nobody shouting.
The only segment that had any spark was one that seemed closer to Kelly’s heart, and which featured two people—surfer Cori Schumacher and swimmer Amanda Beard—with opposing, yet reasonable, viewpoints on female athletes using their sexuality to gain more fame. Schumacher had whipped up a petition denouncing an absurdly sexist ad by women’s surfing brand Roxy; Beard, a seven-time Olympic Gold medalist, had posed in Playboy and didn’t see any problem with the spot.
But Kelly, if she really doesn’t want to be an “ideologue,” needs more of this—not less.
If you believe Lloyd Grove at the Daily Beast, who wrote that, “Megyn Kelly is Fox News’ Future,” you better be paying extra close attention to Kelly. “For all those regular folks out in the real America, she is also warmly relatable.”
According to Grove, Kelly is not only the face of Fox News, but she is also the future of the Republican party in that she represents the kind of people they want to appeal to: moderate Republicans, who are younger and more hip than the racist fuddy-duddies messing up the party right now. Kelly—who has called herself a “moderate,” but won’t say if she is Republican—is the kind of person you can imagine voting for Chris Christie, the kind of voter who can be against abortion but in a “state’s rights” kind of way, the kind of Republican who makes tax cuts seem totally kosher and fiscally responsible. In other words, she seems like she’d be the kind of Republican you can still get a beer with without wanting to slip a packet of Stevia-masquerading-as-ricin into it.
And for that reason alone, the liberal press should be racing to cover her—often and with vigor.
It’s not just about the stories. Journalism is also about who is telling them.
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