Sunday, January 25, 2015


Jim Rutenberg's breathless, gushing New York Times Magazine profile of Fox's Megyn Kelly has already been the subject of a couple of excellent takedowns, by Asawin Suebsaeng at the Daily Beast and Ellen Brodsky at NewsHounds. In his puff piece, Rutenberg prints a legend -- that Kelly is the future of Fox because she's the kind of conservative who'll occasionally break with right-wing orthodoxy, which means moderates and liberals really, really ought to watch her. But Suebsaeng reminds us of her gutter-scraping reinforcement of right-wing memes (no one pushed the New Black Panthers non-story harder than Kelly), while Brodsky notes that Kelly's breaks with conservative orthodoxy (which Rutenberg refers to, like a PR flack, as "Megyn moments") are usually just palate cleansers between courses of the usual red meat.

I'd just like to add that Rutenberg is so invested in the not-your-father's-Fox-host story line that he doesn't let the factual video record get in the way.

Let's go back to the now-famous moment when Mike Gallagher, a radio talk-show host, grumbled about Kelly's maternity leave. Kelly brought Gallagher on to Fox after her return and lit into him. Jon Stewart, however, detected a note of hypocrisy, as Rutenberg points out:
Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” was not buying it and showed clips in which Kelly questioned the need for men to take long paternity leaves and criticized entitlements in general.
But Rutenberg gives Kelly the last word on this subject:
In a later phone conversation, Kelly confronted Stewart, arguing that he had taken devil’s-advocate questions out of context to make them seem like her positions. “Typical Stewart,” she said. “He wouldn’t budge.”
In the online version of this story, Rutenberg (or the Times) provides a link to the clip -- but Rutenberg surely hopes you won't actually watch it:

Do Kelly's denunciations of other entitlements, particularly what she sneeringly says about paternity leave at 3:27 -- "Correct me if I'm wrong, Lee, but don't they call it ma-ternity leave for a reason?" -- seem like "devil’s-advocate questions" to you?

And then there's the segment with former Navy SEAL Jonathan Gilliam that opens Rutenberg's piece. Fox was (and is) deeply invested in another SEAL, Robert O'Neill, who participated in the mission that killed Osama bin Laden. O'Neill claims to have fired the bin Laden kill shot (a claim that's been vigorously disputed, and that violated the SEALs' code of silence), but his story has been a ratings bonanza for Fox.

Gilliam had criticized O'Neill on CNN, which led Kelly to invite Gilliam on her show. Rutenberg wants to portray Kelly's interview of Gilliam as another orthodoxy-defying "Megyn moment," but the videotape tells a completely different story. Here's Rutenberg:
“This is a little dicey because you’ve been very critical of this man,” she said, the model of stern sincerity. “But I wanted to give you the chance to explain it. Because I think a lot of our viewers are looking at him thinking, That man is a national hero.”

Gilliam was prepared. He wasn’t attacking O’Neill. He was attacking the president. “There’s a problem that starts at the top and works its way down,” he said.

“Head of the Navy SEALs?” she asked innocently.

No, he said. “Let’s start with the president, commander in chief. He’s never even been in the military. We elect somebody who’s never been in the military before, and we don’t put them through any training so they know how the military works. Then you have a vice president who goes out -- “

But Kelly, incredulous, stopped him midsentence. She then asked him a question often heard on Fox News, though seldom in nonrhetorical form: “What did the president do wrong?”

Here was the Megyn moment, and Gilliam would never recover.
He tried to explain his case, arguing that the White House set the bad example for O’Neill and his fellow SEALs by divulging details about the operation in a craven bid to win credit for the president. But Kelly didn’t let it shake her focus: his mistreatment of O’Neill. “You made people view him as a pariah,” she said.

It was another win, and another winning night, for Megyn Kelly.
(Emphasis added.)

Now watch the video. Nothing of the sort happens. Yes, Kelly interrupts with that question, and yes, she momentarily seems to be expressing incredulity. But she gives Gilliam plenty of time to bash President Obama and Vice President Biden. And Gilliam in no way seems to be thrown off stride by the question -- in fact, it's a very gentle, respectful interview, and Kelly agrees with Gilliam that the Obama administration leaked classified information about the raid, some of it to the people who made the movie Zero Dark Thirty. If "Kelly didn’t let" Gilliam's reference to the president "shake her focus: his mistreatment of O’Neill," it's because O'Neill had become a Fox star, and Kelly needed to steer the conversation back to O'Neill for the good of the copany. She was plugging Fox's product.

But that's not the story Rutenberg wants to tell. So Rutenberg told the story he liked rather than the truth.


Victor said...

Before, when people asked me why I stopped buying the NY Times, I told them it cost more than it was worth.

I used to be a daily reader - from the time I was in JHS, because my father bought it and brought it home.

Then, I switched to Sunday's only when I lived in NC.

I'm not necessarily criticizing the articles in the A section, or business, or sports (though their sports coverage is rather dry) - I'm talking about the Styles and some of the other sections.

And, they're ruined the Sunday NY Times, because neither the magazine nor the Week In Review are worth reading anymore.
And, as for the Book Review - P-U!!!

Thanks, Steve, for reinforcing my non-buying decision with today's post.

Ten Bears said...

The crotch-shot in the Ambien, Prozac, Viagra and crotch-shots on Fox Kool-Aid.