Jokes by 'Daily Show,' MSNBC aside, the Fox News host knows the channel's base
The funniest part of Megyn Kelly’s reassurance to children who might be watching “The Kelly File” that Santa Claus is, indeed, white wasn’t her statement with absolute conviction regarding a fictional character. Although granted, that did sound pretty amusing.
No, the funniest thing is the Fox News Channel host felt compelled during her program Wednesday to address children at all when, in all likelihood, virtually none were watching, unless it was their turn to keep an eye on grandpa for a few minutes.
Not surprisingly, liberal outlets pounced on Kelly’s pronouncement, issued in response to a Slate column that suggested the image of Santa as a jolly old white guy with a beard could be made more inclusive.
Kelly’s comments turned the host into a day-long punchline. Presumably someone at Mediamatters.org had an orgasm, or something close to it, at just how ridiculous the quote would look plastered across its site. Huffington Post summed it up thusly: “OMG: Megyn Kelly REALLY SAID THIS!”
Kelly took the night off Thursday, but MSNBC, of course, couldn’t resist weighing in either. “All In With Chris Hayes” hosted the author of the Slate piece, Aisha Harris, to offer her own on-air response.
As usual, “The Daily Show” dismantled the Fox “War on Christmas” meme, summarizing Kelly’s ostensible concern about kids uncomfortable being with the concept of a non-white Santa as “Yes, West Virginia, There is a Santa Claus.” Stephen Colbert also thanked Kelly on behalf of “all those kids watching Fox News at 9:40 at night.”
At Fox, though, such derision can be worn as a badge of honor. And inserting Kelly into the Fox primetime lineup has had the desired effect, boosting ratings – including within the key age 25-54 demographic – with the twin titans of Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity as her bookends. Yet even with the gains in younger adults, Fox News still skews heavily toward those age 60 and older, people whose conception of what Santa Claus looks like was likely forged by the original version of “Miracle on 34th Street” in its initial 1947 release.
Viewed that way, Kelly’s defense of a white Christmas, as it were, is little more than red meat for the base, lightly spiced with yuletide cheer. That was especially true when she said: “Just because it makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change.”
Despite all the ribbing Kelly took, such statements clearly appeal to an older conservative audience – adjectives that disproportionately describe both those who watch Fox News and vote Republican. Put another way, as Kelly told the Washington Post in a long and flattering profile: “People feel validated when they hear their own emotions accurately described by someone on television.”
Since Barack Obama became president, there’s certainly been a motivated constituency hostile toward the kind of change his election represents, and Fox News has brilliantly capitalized on that — and to an extent, helped fuel it. But honestly, Kelly needn’t fret about the kids. Because the odds are better they’ll surprise Santa coming down the chimney than watch cable news.