Only two interviews into the inaugural run of NBC News’ “Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly,” the former rising star and Fox News host is being walloped by criticism from all corners.
Kelly’s interview with right-wing provocateur and occasional conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of InfoWars was engulfed in controversy before it even aired Sunday. The announcement that Kelly would be giving a platform to Jones, who once promoted the idea that the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, in which 20 first-graders and six staffers were killed in Connecticut, could have been a hoax, was greeted with widespread outrage. When NBC released promos of the special, families of the Sandy Hook victims decried the interview, insisting that Kelly didn’t press Jones enough on the debunked theory or other distasteful, inaccurate theories he’d pushed in the past.
In her voiceover during the segment, Kelly made sure to emphasize that Jones was a “radical conspiracy theorist” with “a new and surprising level of influence, thanks, in part, to President Trump.” Kelly said that Jones uses a “pattern” of “reckless accusation followed by equivocations and excuses.”
“Tonight we confront him on his notorious lies about the Sandy Hook Massacre, and we examine just where does he get his information,” Kelly said, noting that the “incendiary radio host” has spouted messages that have “caused enormous pain.”
NBC Connecticut affiliate WVIT announced prior to the interview it would not air Kelly’s special with Jones. Major NBC News advertiser JP Morgan Chase withdrew its ads from NBC News for the duration of the segment, and the entire network faced mounting pressure to abandon airing the interview altogether.
Kelly, a former anchor for Fox News, stood by her decision to interview Jones, saying in a statement, “I find Alex Jones’s suggestion that Sandy Hook was ‘a hoax’ as personally revolting as every other rational person does.”
“President Trump, by praising and citing him, appearing on his show, and giving him White House press credentials, has helped elevate Jones, to the alarm of many,” Kelly added. “Our goal in sitting down with him was to shine a light — as journalists are supposed to do — on this influential figure, and yes — to discuss the considerable falsehoods he has promoted with near impunity.”
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On the show itself, Kelly added, “Some thought we should not broadcast this interview because his baseless allegations aren’t just offensive. They’re dangerous. But here’s the thing, Alex Jones isn’t going away. Over the years, his YouTube channel has racked up 1.3 billion views. He has millions of listeners and the ear of our current president.”
To make matters even worse for Kelly, her strong statements appeared to contradict what she can be heard telling Jones during a phone call, according to audio Jones leaked Thursday evening.
“I’ll ask you about some of the controversy and I’ll ask you and you can respond,” Kelly can be heard saying of the Sandy Hook shooting, adding, “It’s not going to be some gotcha hit piece, I promise you that.”
Kelly promised, “I don’t double-cross,” while telling Jones that she wouldn’t focus on “conspiracy theories” during the interview.
But when NBC’s promos aired, Sandy Hook families rebuked Kelly for being softer on Jones than they felt he warranted and accused her of engaging in journalistic malpractice. This led to Kelly and her team frantically attempting to edit the interview to appear tougher on Jones and his conspiracy theories, sources told the New York Post.
“NBC was scrambling to find a way out of this mess without having to back down and cancel Sunday’s episode of Megyn’s show. Megyn and her producers made numerous calls to the Sandy Hook families this week to ask them to appear on the show. Some refused because they didn’t think appearing on her show would do enough to counter Alex Jones’ venom,” one source told the Post.
Another added, “Everyone on the show believes it’s vitally important that the piece conveys the immense pain that Jones has caused the Sandy Hook families.”
Even Jones wasn’t pleased with the show’s promos. He told The Hollywood Reporter he didn’t want NBC to air the show “because from the promos NBC has run, Megyn is distorting me.”
“It has all the markings of a PR stunt. The minute she put that promo out there, there were groups calling for boycotts. It was basically instantaneous,” Jones added. (click on page 2 for the rest of the story)[lz_pagination]