Megyn Kelly looked absolutely terrified on Wednesday’s Today show because she had some ‘splaining to do. And rightly so.
Earlier in the week her hateful comments about going blackface for Halloween outraged people — well, decent people — around the world… including her on-air colleagues at NBC News.
Reaction was swift. Moments after the awkward Tuesday exchange with panellists on her show, Kelly seemingly knew she stepped deep in it. Clearly she knew she would have to do damage control — and fast.
Unfortunately, for her anyway, nowadays once your head is on the chopping block it doesn’t take long for an offender to be put out of their misery. It’s true. Once the mob has spoken, you’re toast. Rumblings are that she won’t be returning to the show and she’s dunzo. Sure enough, she’s absent two days later and there’s talk she ain’t comin’ back.
As expected, she gave a near-tearful apology on her show the next day. But anybody who’s seen an on-air personality embroiled in a scandal knows that they’ll likely say sorry because they have to. At that point, does an apology mean anything? It’s viewed as, “OK, let’s do the damage control and move on so this scandal doesn’t drag out.” Problem is, that doesn’t work anymore. The public expects something critical to happen in response to the issue.
Yes, her comments were offensive, insensitive, outrageous — any other word you want to use. I’m not going to defend them. But as an entertainment reporter, selfishly I have to admit that I couldn’t wait to see how the rest of the week played out.
Despite her big payday to jump ship from Fox News, Kelly’s daytime gig was met with criticism right from the beginning. Even when NBC tested the waters with a Sunday night show, viewers didn’t like her and the program bombed. You’d think network execs would’ve taken that feedback and not let her go wild with commentary and opinion on the daytime show. But… nope. (Again, much to a reporter’s delight.)
Controversy doesn’t work in daytime. Well, maybe it does for a show like The View that’s been around for a while. But even The View, in its early days was playful, fun and not hard-hitting. Over time, sure, once you have the love of your audience, then you start to play with the format and tone of the show. For Kelly, after a year and a half, viewers still didn’t connect with her.
The few times that I watched Megyn Kelly Today, I didn’t find her likeable. In fact, I always felt that it was a struggle to have the in-studio audience appreciate her. It came across as one of those infomercial audiences that smile and clap for the cameras like trained monkeys when they’re instructed to. There was nothing warm about the show. Or her. There was a disconnect.
It’s true that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. And yes, they have the right to express them no matter how reckless they might be. But for any public figure, there almost needs to be a seven-second delay on the transmission of words from the brain to the mouth.
The Today show has historically been a fluffy morning show with the odd hard-hitting interview. Kelly’s reputation at Fox News probably didn’t help her survival at NBC. Like I said, even her co-workers gave a big “WTF?” when Kelly signed a $23 million-per-year contract and got a coveted timeslot on daytime TV.
For some of us reporters covering media personalities, it’s not surprising that Kelly’s true colours have now been shown on NBC. Remember, she’s the one who famously said that Santa is white and not black.
I have beliefs that people might not necessarily agree with (though none racist or bigoted, I can assure you) but I tread lightly or keep them to myself when I’m on the radio. I know that I have every right to express them but generally I have a sense of what people will agree with and also vocally disagree with. You might stir the pot a little to get people talking but you certainly don’t alienate the masses for the sake of having “a moment.”
Kelly seemed to forget that your job as an on-air host is to be relatable and have people like you. Going on a rant as she did about controversial Halloween costumes probably isn’t the best topic when you know you have the reputation of being a racist woman. (And you can’t tell me she hadn’t heard that talk before.)
So, while the speculation is that Kelly is suddenly out of a job, it’s led to another discussion about how people need to be more tolerant of others. (We hear that a lot these days, hey?) For her part, Kelly said she has “listened” and “learned” from her remarks but it’s too little too late, according to the mob. And I mean the mob of common folk, not the Tiki torch-wielding people who probably now see her as a hero.
Is there a bright spot in all of this? Perhaps. At least if she’s out of a job, Kelly has the time to make nice with President Trump and run his 2020 campaign.