NBC News said it would air an interview between controversial provocateur Alex Jones and anchor Megyn Kelly this weekend, despite a swelling chorus of voices urging the NBCUniversal unit not to do so.
“Despite Alex Jones’ efforts to distract from and ultimately prevent the airing of our report, we remain committed to giving viewers context and insight into a controversial and polarizing figure, how he relates to the president of the United States and influences others, and to getting this serious story right,” NBC News said in a statement Friday morning.”Tune in Sunday.”
NBC’s renewed commitment to airing the segment comes after Jones purported to leak a portion of some exchanges between himself and Kelly, and as the segment, slated to air on a Kelly-anchored Sunday newsmagazine that is still in its relative infancy, generates a slew of negative attention.
A dozen relatives of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre have urged the news unit to reconsider its plan to broadcast the segment. Jones has widely and falsely attempted to label the 2012 massacre of 26 people – 20 of them children – in Newtown, Conn.
The contretemps has spurred debate about free speech, advertiser support of controversial subject matter, and Kelly’s early career at NBC, which she joined after parting ways with Fox News Channel at the start of 2017. The report has become a hot topic across the news industry. At a CNN press event Thursday, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker and “New Day” anchors Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota discussed the news value of the segment as well as the way NBC News had teased it in a short video preview.
“Let’s not prejudge what the story is until we see it,” said Zucker. “But they’ve done themselves no favors in the way they’ve marketed this.” The teaser sparked alarm by showing Jones and Kelly in conversation, but not necessarily grilling him intensely about a slew of conspiracy theories he has widely promoted.
Already, one advertiser has signaled alarm. J.P. Morgan Chase has asked NBC to remove any local and digital advertising that could appear adjacent to Kelly’s interview with Jones.
Kelly, in interviews this week, has defended the segment, noting that journalists are meant to “shine a light,” even on topics that can prove distasteful or offensive.
NBCUniversal has placed a big bet on Kelly. She is slated to launch a new 9 a.m. morning program this fall that will vie for viewers with the syndicated ABC mainstay “Live,” hosted by Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest.