The biggest news of the week, before the shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, was Megyn Kelly’s upcoming interview with Alex Jones. AP suggested the interview was essentially putting Jones on The Tonight Show, while Jazz seemed to suggest J.P. Morgan was overreacting by pulling their ads. Now Jones is trying to put the spotlight back on his slightly balding head by releasing an edited recording of his pre-interview phone conversation with Kelly. Tom Sykes at The Daily Beast suggests Kelly was exposed by Jones in the leaked audio recordings because she promised it wouldn’t be a hit piece.
Except in this case, Jones may cause serious trouble for Kelly, who he apparently took the precaution of covertly taping in pre-interview calls and, he claims, the interview itself, which he is now publicizing on Infowars and his YouTube channel. And in those clandestine clips, the former Fox News host appears to promise to go easy on him in the interview.
In one 30-minute video Jones published that included extensive audio of a pre-interview call with Kelly, the new NBC hire appeared to promise the interview would be a softball personality piece.
“My goal is for your listeners and the left—you know, who will be watching some on NBC—to say, ‘Wow, that’s really interesting,” the voice that appears to be Kelly says. “It’s not going to be some gotcha hit piece, I promise you that.”
Sykes’ basic thesis suggests Kelly violated some journalistic standard by being nice to Jones, even though he acknowledged journalists will do “sweet talk” to people they want to interview.
At another point she says, “I’m not looking to portray you as some kind of boogeyman. The craziest thing of all would be if some people who have this insane version of you in their heads came away saying, ‘You know what? I see the dad in him. I see the guy who loves those kids and is more complex than we have been led to believe.’”
Probably the most awkward clip for Kelly will be when she tells Jones: “I will personally promise to look at any clips we want to use of you, and have a producer run by you, whether we are taking it in context, what you are saying.”
Let’s consider Kelly’s promise to make sure Jones is being portrayed in context. It might sound awkward to non-journalists, but this really isn’t a surprising thing. There are plenty of times where people make comments which can be misconstrued or flat-out manipulated (see some of the coverage of Gary Johnson during the last election cycle), and it’s a symptom of the soundbite world we live in. Kelly is actually practicing good journalism, especially for a magazine show, by wanting to make sure people understand Jones’ point of view. It’s like asking a follow-up question during a one on one interview or news conference. Reporters have done this before and will do it again, especially with inflammatory statements.
It’s also important to remember there will be times where an interview subject will say something so interesting or outrageous, it’d be ridiculous for a reporter to not include it in a piece. The tenor of the interview between Kelly and Jones could have changed completely if he gave some crazy answer to a question. The fact we’ve only seen clips of the interview is just another way for NBC and Kelly to drum up interest in Sunday’s show. It may backfire on Kelly, but we won’t know until it airs.
Jones is already saying he’s been taken out of context in the piece, which suggests he doesn’t come off very well (color me shocked). His little PR stunt of releasing his taped conversation with Kelly is probably a way for him to keep his audience and to come off like the victim of a government conspiracy. But it doesn’t necessarily mean he played Kelly and NBC by agreeing to do an interview with them. It might completely de-legitimize him, and cause President Donald Trump (and others) to stop being involved with his show. We just won’t know until the piece airs on Sunday, unless NBC decides to pull the plug. NBC claims it won’t, but a lot can happen between now and Sunday night.