What’s funny about this is that she pointedly doesn’t name any names, yet everyone who watches it immediately thinks “Hannity” — including Hannity. Here’s how he reacted on Twitter when Mediaite’s post about this interview went live last night.
Even funnier is the idea that this allegation, that he either fed Trump questions or “play-acted” criticism of Trump occasionally to present a modicum of objectivity, is the ethical red line that he won’t tolerate being accused of crossing. He’s admitted to advising Trump informally; he flew Newt Gingrich to a VP interview with Trump on his own private jet; he did an on-camera endorsement for Trump for use in a campaign commercial; he touted unscientific online polls showing that Trump won the debates, to the embarrassment of Fox News’s in-house pollsters; he warned Trump’s #NeverTrump enemies in conservative media repeatedly that he’d attack them on air after the election if Trump lost; and he publicly accused Kelly, his colleague on the news side of Fox, of being in the tank for Hillary Clinton. Every time someone objects to any of this, he rushes to repeat his usual mantra: “I’m not a journalist, I’m a commentator, and I make no secret of my support for Trump.” Which is true. The entire point of his show for the past six months (and long before that, or so Ted Cruz fans will insist) has been to get Trump elected. In which case, though, why wouldn’t he warn him about tough questions or occasionally play-act some “tough love” for Trump about better message discipline? It’s weird to take umbrage at being accused of violating journalistic ethics when you spend so much of your time insisting that you shouldn’t be held to journalistic ethics.
But here’s the thing. I’m not sure Kelly’s talking about Hannity. There really wasn’t enough criticism of Trump on Hannity’s show since May to think that he’d feel the need to warn him that a harsh segment was coming. Which harsh segments? The guy’s ratings are through the roof because Trump fans came to realize that there wouldn’t be harsh segments about him on Hannity’s show. It was a safe space. Besides, Hannity’s not the only pro-Trump host on cable news, he’s just the guy who’s most willing to admit it. Could it be that Kelly’s actually thinking of … Joe Scarborough? Remember, Scarborough and Mike Brzezinski were embarrassed earlier this year when audio leaked of them chatting with Trump during an interview, with Trump commenting that their show had made him look like “almost … a legendary figure” in a segment that same day. At one point Trump half-joked with Mika not to ask any questions that were too hard, which is along the lines of what Kelly’s talking about here. Also of note: Kelly and Scarborough have feuded intermittently dating back to 2014. In May, Scarborough wrote that Kelly should think carefully before she leaves Fox News lest she lose some relevance a la Glenn Beck. In August, Kelly hit Scarborough hard as someone who “could not have promoted Trump more” — which would, I assume, make him a “pro-Trump” host as far as she’s concerned — even though Scarborough was eager to convince people at the time, while Trump was lagging in the polls, that he’d never been a supporter. (Funnily enough, according to an NYT story this weekend, the president-elect now calls Scarborough “often” for advice.) In the end there’s no telling whom Kelly means for the simple reason that the “pro-Trump” club on cable TV wasn’t exclusive to Hannity or Scarborough. Remember, CBS chairman Les Moonves famously said of Trump’s candidacy, “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” CNN president Jeff Zucker has been a Trump promoter for years. To some extent, everyone in the industry was in the tank. Including Megyn Kelly, who knew exactly which very special guest would be the perfect “get” for her first big network special.