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Can Megyn Kelly Escape Her Past?


epa05132347 Fox News debate moderator Megyn Kelly waits for the start of a Republican Presidential debate, sponsored by Fox News and Google, at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa, USA, 28 January 2016. The Iowa caucuses, held on 01 February, are the first electoral test for presidential candidates seeking their party's nominations. EPA/JIM LO SCALZO

epa05132347 Fox News debate moderator Megyn Kelly waits for the start of a Republican Presidential debate, sponsored by Fox News and Google, at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa, USA, 28 January 2016. The Iowa caucuses, held on 01 February, are the first electoral test for presidential candidates seeking their party’s nominations. EPA/JIM LO SCALZO

Foxx news was founded in 1996, when the entertainment impresario and conservative political consultant Roger Ailes acted on a pair of insights: that most people found television news boring and that a significant number of conservatives didn’t trust it to represent their interests and values fairly. The TV producer in Ailes saw a marketing niche, and the political operative in him saw a direct way of courting voters.

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Rupert Murdoch owned the network, but Ailes was its intellectual author. In the two decades since, the network has thrived without legitimate competition of any kind. It has proved to be a big tent, sheltering beneath it some excellent reporters but also a collection of blowhards, performance artists, cornballs, and Republican operatives in rehab from political failures and personal embarrassments. With the help of this antic cast, the Fox audience has come to understand something important that it did not know before: The people who make “mainstream” news and entertainment don’t just look down on conservatives and their values—they despise them.

By 2010, the network had become so popular that—according to Gabriel Sherman’s biography, The Loudest Voice in the Room—Ailes added a new goal to the mission: the election of the next president. The team did its best for Mitt Romney, but he lacked both the ability to excite crowds and the blood instinct necessary to “rip Obama’s face off” in the debates, which Ailes believed was essential for victory. Almost as soon as the election ended, Fox News went back to work on the mission, emphasizing a variety of themes, each intended to demonize the left. At the top of the list was the regular suggestion that Barack Obama was an America-hating radical, an elaboration of Glenn Beck’s observation (on Fox) that the president had “a deep-seated hatred for white people.” Other themes included the idea that straight white men were under ever-present threat from progressive policies and attitudes; that Planned Parenthood was a kind of front operation for baby murder; that political correctness had made the utterance of even the most obvious factual statements dangerous; and that the concerns of black America—including, especially, those of the Black Lives Matter movement—were so illogical, and so emotionally expressed, that they revealed millions of Americans to be beyond the reach of reason.

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