When Megyn Kelly first moved from Fox to NBC, critics predicted sensibility clashes. Now, unconfirmed reports that NBC has booted the host for defending Halloween blackface costumes seem to have proven the critics right.
Kelly made her name as a Fox News host who specialized in racial provocation. She used her platform on national television to hype threat of the utterly marginal New Black Panther Party, repeatedly denigrated black victims of police violence (describing a teen who was manhandled by a cop as “no saint”), and decrying what she called the “thug mentality” in the black community.
Describing Kelly as a “racial demagogue” in early 2017, Jamelle Bouie of Slate listed off some of her more egregious moments:
In 2013, in reaction to my colleague Aisha Harris’ Slate piece, “Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore,” the Fox anchor infamously claimed that both Santa Claus and Jesus of Nazareth were white men. “Jesus was a white man, too … he’s a historical figure and that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa.” (The truth is that “white” as a political or racial category didn’t exist in either 1st century Palestine or 3rd and 4th century Turkey—and that Santa’s not real.) In 2015, Kelly insisted that the racist emails exchanged by officials in Ferguson, Missouri—which included a joke about a man seeking “welfare” for his dogs because they are “mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and have no frigging clue who their Daddies are”—were normal. Kelly has repeatedly invited former Los Angeles Police Department officer Mark Fuhrman on her show to discuss cases of police abuse—where both dismiss the role of racism in police shootings of black Americans.
When Kelly was hired by NBC at the beginning of 2017, there was much speculation that her record as a racist provocateur would come back and haunt her.
“Can Megyn Kelly escape her past?” Caitlin Flanagan asked in The Atlantic. The answer she provided was prophetic:
Fox News can turn a nobody into a star—but only of a certain size. You can’t become a Katie Couric or a Diane Sawyer or a Barbara Walters at Fox, so Megyn Kelly is off to the big time, which will crush her. NBC is not going to let her roll her eyes at black activists, or tell her audience that Santa is white, or hector a Planned Parenthood supporter with a horrified “Where’s your humanity?” Her recent adoption of Sheryl Sandberg–style “you go, girl” feminism isn’t going to help her either. There are only so many uplifting reports on workplace mentoring you can file before sleepy viewers start clicking around. The reason Kelly was so great at Fox is that, unlike just about every other woman to be called this, she actually is a badass. Settle for More aside, she’s spent her career really not caring if you think she’s a racist or a pro-lifer or a bully. She’s a strong, strong woman—but she won’t be one at NBC. She’ll be like everyone else.