Three predictable reactions this morning now that the hype is over and the interview has finally aired.
1. She exposed this dangerous crank for the dangerous crank he is.
2. You don’t give a major mainstream platform to a dangerous crank, no matter how hard you are on him.
3. Megyn Kelly is the worst and Jones totally owned her.
Jack Shafer of Politico is in the first camp:
When Kelly’s show finally aired, she took the mendacious Jones apart in such a textbook manner you had to wonder what all the shouting had been about. The Jones pattern, she said at the segment’s top, is making “reckless accusations followed by equivocations and excuses” when questioned. The two best examples of this are his promotion of the “Pizzagate“ lies about a satanic child porn ring and his wild allegation that Chobani was “importing Migrant Rapists,” as Infowars hyped its report on Twitter. In both cases, lawsuits have forced Jones to retract and apologize for airing these dishonest stories, and yet in conversation with Kelly he still hedges and quibbles like a con artist in an effort to have his conspiracy pizza and keep his yogurt, too. Likewise with the pathetic claims about the Sandy Hook killings. He’s still throwing the see-through drapery of devil’s advocacy to blur the fact that on most subjects he’s talking out of his tinfoil hat.
Short of waterboarding him, I don’t know what more Kelly could have done to expose Jones’ dark methods. She was needlessly defensive in her presentation, acknowledging that some people thought the segment shouldn’t have been broadcast because it would increase Jones’ profile. But as she pointed out, Jones isn’t going away, and his audience is growing. What’s more, Jones “has the ear of our president,” and spurious things Infowars says have a way of getting repeated by his phone-pal President Donald Trump, who has saluted the Infowars host in the past. She didn’t take Jones down, but really, who could have in a newsmagazine segment? But she did do a credible job of exposing his lies. Give her a B+.
Meh. If you believe the New York Post, NBC “completely overhauled” the edit of the interview as the criticism got hotter and hotter. Of course she was going to push back on things like his Sandy Hook and Pizzagate conspiracizing while interviewing him; that was never in doubt. What was in doubt was the extent to which she’d also present him as an influential and “important” cultural voice, kinda sorta worth listening to even if you abhor him just to see where the zeitgeist is at. How many softballs along those lines did she ask him that ended up being dropped from the final cut at the last panicky minute? Maybe we’ll find out.
If you can’t spare 17 minutes to watch, RCP has a full transcript. The most surprising thing about it isn’t anything that Kelly says, it’s Jones’s retreat when pressed on his Sandy Hook theories. I “play devil’s advocate” in my views, he says at one point; later he says, “I tend to believe that children probably did die there. But then you look at all the other evidence on the other side. I can see how other people believe that nobody died there.” The guy’s a folk hero to conspiracy theorists various and sundry, he finally gets a big spotlight on NBC News, and … he won’t full-throatedly defend the fringe view. What was the point of this interview, then?
In its own twisted way, it’s a bit like Tomi Lahren showing up on “The View” and pronouncing herself pro-choice. Put her in front of an audience whose political beliefs, for once, she doesn’t know to the letter and she shrinks to meet them in the middle. In both cases you can call that savvy positioning by a niche media figure who’s hoping to seize an opportunity to attract a broader audience — but if so, that makes Jones’s threat to air the entire interview with Kelly a strange gambit. After all, no mainstream TV journalist is going to put him on the air in the future if they need to worry about him leaking their sweet-talk phone pitches or the unedited Q&A after the fact. That is to say, he could have gone two routes here: Either play nice with Kelly, signaling to other big-media outlets that they should feel comfortable giving him airtime, or go full crank and defiantly stand by strong-form conspiracy theories on everything — Sandy Hook, Pizzagate, 9/11. In the end he did neither, likely annoying some hardcore fans while reminding mainstream TV networks that dealing with him isn’t worth the trouble. Strategically I don’t get it.