In advance interviews, Megyn Kelly has insisted that she is “not an ideologue,” but rather a news anchor. Yet the premiere Monday of her Fox News Channel program, “The Kelly File,” highlighted how easy it is for a host to strike that posture and still use choices of bookings and guests to operate squarely in the network’s ideological wheelhouse.
Long considered a rising star at Fox, Kelly took her place between Bill O’Reilly — who graciously gave her almost as much plug time as he did his book “Killing Jesus” — and Sean Hannity. As noted when Kelly’s move was confirmed, this represents less a shift in tone or style for Fox News than a cosmetic change, recognizing that its primetime lineup plays to an audience mostly past retirement age.
While TV news can afford to skew older than most ad-driven programming — and Fox can do fine preaching to the choir — there are certain realities of television that dictate younger is better, or at least potentially more profitable. Moreover, it’s hard to argue with the notion Kelly’s ascent owes at least something to the fact that she is not only an engaging presence but attractive enough to inspire GQ to run the unfortunate headline “She Reports, We Decided She’s Hot” along with some sexy photos of her a few years ago.
Kelly opened the program with a fairly straightforward but not especially tough interview of GOP Sen. Ted Cruz. Tellingly, she teased the segment by citing the blowback against the Texan within his own party, then only obliquely touched on that in the course of the discussion, where she seemed fairly content to let Cruz engage in another filibuster.
Later, Kelly featured the hosts of Fox’s afternoon roundtable “The Five” (where the conservative/liberal ratio is 4 to 1) to weigh in on whether the government shutdown was intentionally being made more painful by the Obama administration — a key Republican talking point.
Kelly’s other main drawback is a tendency to get a bit too giddy, as she was during the interminable “Five” chat, where she prodded the panelists about whether any of them had hooked up, before segueing to tiresome talk about Miley Cyrus. Any excuse to run the video, right guys?
Like most Fox hosts — and indeed, a lot of news/talk talent in general these days — Kelly had no problem making a portion of the premiere all about her, showing the audition video that landed her on Fox a decade ago and, for good measure, a photo of her baby son. It was a cutesy way to close the telecast — if a slightly awkward transition to Hannity railing about “The Obama Shutdown.”
Nevertheless, add it all up and Fox has provided Kelly a perfect environment to succeed, sandwiched between its two most-watched personalities and drawing upon an assortment of Fox correspondents to flesh out her hour. Simply put, it’s not like the folks who leave Fox News on as white noise will see Kelly and run screaming toward Rachel Maddow or Piers Morgan, and the obvious hope is she’ll woo a few younger viewers as well.