Well, fine. But taking cutesy-poo “cruisin’ around on a sunny day” photos with him doesn’t quite signal horror either.
She was supposed to host an event tomorrow for the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, a charity formed by some of the parents of the children murdered in the shooting. That invitation has now been rescinded. Kelly defended herself on Twitter:
Here is my statement regarding Sunday night’s interview: pic.twitter.com/iS2VfyLt6S
— Megyn Kelly (@megynkelly) June 13, 2017
The calculus in interviewing any shady character requires balancing his significance to current events against the risk of giving him a bigger soapbox. In some cases that’s easy because the first variable is so large. CNN interviewing Bin Laden, an arch-terrorist who’d already attacked U.S. interests abroad and was aiming to hit the U.S. mainland, was a classic example. He was a major national security threat. Americans were naturally curious to see what they were up against. Some cases are easy, on the other hand, because the second variable is so small. Shock interviews with murderous cranks like Charles Manson fit the bill. The news value is meager, but no one’s too worried about the audience listening to “Helter Skelter” for secret messages about a race war afterward. Those are two different ends of the spectrum even though both involve killer lunatics: Bin Laden is/was a serious geopolitical threat, Manson is/was a pure freak show, but in both cases the interviewer doesn’t take much flak for pushing a mic in their faces. That’s also why Kelly didn’t get much heat for making Putin the subject of her first interview for her new show. He’s a killer, an arch-propagandist, and one of the foremost enemies of the United States alive today, but he’s pretty darned significant to current events.
Jones is a tougher case because he’s sort of significant culturally but also sufficiently fringy that there’s a real risk that hyping him on NBC will bring a broader mainstream audience to him. Giving him a platform on broadcast TV feels like a favor to him in a way that it doesn’t with the other three characters I mentioned. He works in media, after all; he’s famous purely for his opinions. Even with rudimentarily tough questioning from Kelly (or not), he’s still getting the equivalent of a shot on “The Tonight Show” in terms of expanding his reach. And because he’s only a broadcaster, the NBC audience won’t come to the segment with the same hardened skepticism they would for an interview with Putin or Manson, whom they know are guilty of evil deeds. He’s going to win some converts when this airs simply because so many news consumers no longer know which sources to trust. All of that being so, is he so culturally significant that it’s worth doing this interview? It’s true, as Kelly notes, that Jones has the endorsement of the president of the United States. But the president was also the country’s leading Birther for years. That in itself presents a tough balancing act for future interviewers: If a fake-news pusher (“9/11 was an inside job!”) is held in some esteem by Trump, is that in itself reason enough to give him a platform? How much political influence is required to offset zero credibility in making someone “newsworthy”?
It’s nice that we’re humoring Kelly, by the way, by pretending there was some burning news value to her interview with Jones instead of an obvious sensationalist impulse to get people buzzing about her new NBC show. Same goes for her choice to sit down with the Bond villain Putin a few weeks ago. Tough call for Megyn on her next interview: Go with the evil dictator Bashar Assad or the scandalous cultural oddity Richard Spencer? Stay tuned!