Who’s up for some dopey Fox News drama to cleanse the palate on a post-election news day?
This feels less like annoyance at Kelly becoming the network’s highest-profile star this year (she finished ahead of O’Reilly in the 25-54 demographic in October even though his overall audience remains larger) and more like annoyance on behalf of his old boss, Roger Ailes. O’Reilly had nothing bad to say about Ailes back in September, the last time he did a round of morning shows to hawk a book — even though Ailes had been buried under sexual-harassment accusations by then. Kelly accuses Ailes of harassment in her own new book; you’ll see her talking about it in the second clip below, which aired just this afternoon. USA Today asked her in an interview whether she thought maybe he deserved a second chance. Er, no:
“Absolutely not,” she snapped. “I have no doubts now about who he is or what he did. I don’t think he’d have spent a lifetime doing it and suddenly turn over a new leaf.” She said she was disturbed he’d advised the Trump campaign.
She talks in the same interview about Trump threatening to attack on her Twitter way back when, before the first primary debate, and claims that after he followed through she got death threats, had “strange men” turn up outside her door, and needed a bodyguard when she took her kids to DisneyWorld as a precaution. Presumably Ailes heard all about that while he was still president of the network earlier this year — and yet he still went on to advise Trump after leaving. Is it worth asking O’Reilly about that or nah, because it makes Fox look bad?
The O’Reilly/Kelly/Hannity line-up feels unsustainable, but Kelly may have little choice except to stay put. If Fox is willing to pay her big bucks, reportedly no one else is:
But so far, the purported auction for Kelly’s services has not come to fruition. One CNN insider explained, “of course we would love to have her,” before noting that poaching Kelly, given the likely cost of her contract, “is not something we are seriously considering.” Instead, this person elaborated, CNN is investing more in documentary-style programming after the election. “I don’t believe anyone is pursuing her other than Fox at this point,” said one ABC insider. A source close to CBS said that they are not making an offer, either. (The person close to Kelly noted that discussions with rival executives were ongoing.)
In fact, Kelly’s attempt to spread her wings and show that she is more than just a nightly cable-news host may work against her. An executive close to ABC told me that Kelly’s performance during her heavily promoted prime-time interview with Trump was particularly damaging to her perceived ability to “translate” to a morning show, where anchors are typically paid more handsomely than their prime-time counterparts. For Kelly, the Trump interview was intended to patch up her feud with the candidate and show her softer side. But the event was a critical and ratings disappointment. After that, “it was never a sort of concerted effort to think about what [Kelly] could look like [at ABC],” the executive told me.
Would she take less money to go to another network? Her already awkward position in Fox primetime will get more awkward next year. Fox’s opinion programming will lean heavily towards propagandizing on President Trump’s behalf, starting of course with Hannity at 10 p.m. O’Reilly’s always been a bit more independent, but the more critical he is of Trump, the more exclusively his competitor Hannity will become the pipeline for plum interviews with White House aides and even Trump himself. Besides, Trump and O’Reilly are friendly enough that they’re known to take in the occasional game together. Kelly will have a Trump pal before her in the line-up and after, and much of the audience will be watching in the expectation that television’s only major right-wing news channel will take up the sword and defend Trump from his critics. Does she stay put and wrestle with that dynamic or go to CNN — at a lower salary — and not have to worry as much about partisan pressure?