Megyn Kelly, NBC’s newest on-air talent, has become a bigger target than InfoWars host Alex Jones.
How is that even possible?
These days, people don’t really even need a big reason to jump down a journalist’s throat. He was too harsh here or she was not hard enough there. Kelly is no exception. I can’t help but play devil’s advocate for the NBC journalist – and this is coming from a student who was just forced to sit through a painfully long semester of a journalism ethics class.
For 10 weeks I applied the Society of Professional Journalist’s code of ethics to historically polarizing cases of journalism in what was a repetitive, challenging class. From the moment I finished the final exam, I took everything I learned, put it in the back of my head, and hoped to never have to utter the words ‘SPJ code of ethics’ ever again, which I didn’t, until now.
Hammered in my brain were the four SPJ principles: “Seek Truth and Report It,” “Minimize harm,” “Act Independently,” and “Be Accountable and Transparent.” There were few times during the course of the semester I could look at a case and confidently say, ‘This journalist passes all four tests.” However, if there is one case I am sure of, it’s this one.
Kelly has been criticized for interviewing Jones, the conspiracy theorist who questioned whether the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting even happened and asserted that 9/11 was an “inside job,” on her show that is set to air Sunday night. Critics said that hosting Jones means Kelly is “legitimizing” his views.
“Legitimizing” his views on a show that hasn’t even aired yet? It’s a little early to jump to that conclusion, don’t you think? Isn’t it possible that Kelly could be using the interview to actually delegitimize Jones’ theory?
Nonetheless, there has been an epidemic of anti-Kelly campaigns, from trending Twitter hashtags like “#ShameOnNBC” and “#ShameOnMegynKelly,” to her being uninvited to the Promise Champions Gala just one day before the event.
— Lynn Kessler (@LynnPKH) June 12, 2017
— Pat Carroll (@PatC508) June 12, 2017
JPMorgan and Chase even pulled their advertising for the program, the New York Times reported. The latest of Kelly attacks came Wednesday afternoon when a mother of an Aurora shooting victim used the GOP baseball shooting to lambaste Kelly for her decision to interview Jones, Huffpost reported.
— Sandy Phillips (@MamaRedfield) June 14, 2017
Kelly defended her decision to interview Jones.
“What we do as journalists is we shine a light on those with power, those with influence, those who have become culturally relevant,” Kelly told the The Washington Post. “Of course, it’s upsetting to know that doing that causes any upset to the Newtown families, many of whom I know well. But I have to do my job.”
What makes this interview any different from any other largely despised subject in the past?
Being a journalist means confronting contentious figures with an objective view. We’d all be lying if we said people don’t love a good debate.
Famous ABC newswoman Barbara Walters interviewed Michael Jackson, who was accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy in 1993 and used a drug for sleep that is often used in surgical procedures. She also scored Monica Lewinsky, the ex-White House intern who engaged in a sex act with a former President Bill Clinton. Ex-ABC anchor Diane Sawyer interviewed convicted murderers Amanda Knox and Charles Manson. Knox was acquitted on appeal. Manson remains imprisoned.
But when Kelly decides to interview Jones, America turns its head with disgust?
New York Mag writer Olivia Nuzzi poked crater-sized holes in the views of critics, which accused Kelly of shining a spotlight on the man who made the lives of the victims a “living hell for the last 4-1/2 years,” as the family of Vicki Soto, a teacher killed in the attack, put it.
“It’s not as though Megyn Kelly is introducing the world to Alex Jones,” Nuzzi wrote. “In fact, NBC is late. Jones was covered extensively by major news publications throughout the campaign.” This media attention came from names as big as The View and CNN.
Is Kelly a bad journalist because she is covering an unpopular topic? Does Kelly support school shootings because she’s interviewing someone who may believe it was a hoax? Should Kelly be discredited for being transparent and open with her decision?
If every journalist that covered an unpopular personality was defamed then there would be hardly any journalists left. The only thing a journalist can do when they cover a polarizing topic is be honest with their intentions, use heightened sensitivity, and cover the facts. If anything, Kelly should be commended for treating the topic as delicately as she has, as opposed to her counter part, Jones, who has turned the interview into a publicity stunt.
The InfoWars host leaked pre-interview talks with Kelly on his website Thursday night, USA Today reported. Claiming that his words were taken out of context for promo clips, Jones admitted he recorded a “private, pre-interview conversation with Kelly.”
“Kelly has an opportunity here to do what she didn’t or she couldn’t at Fox News, and good journalism is good for everyone,” Nuzzi added. “We should want that from her and from anyone else with such a platform.”
The idea that some viewers won’t entertain the idea of her program is ridiculous.
I hope that in the midst of this Kelly bashfest, watchers can look at the bigger picture, let go of their narrow-minded prejudices and appreciate that we live in an era in which journalists seek multiple truths.