Remember Megyn Kelly?
She of Santa-is-White fame? The Fox News star who led right-wing free association around supposed voter intimidation by the New Black Panther Party? The journalist who disingenuously inflamed tensions around Obamacare, elevated anti-immigrant voices like Ann Coulter, and routinely blew racist dogwhistles to her millions of viewers?
“You know how we’re all feeling so divided as a country?” she told Jimmy Fallon on Thursday’s Tonight Show. “You feel it, right? I know I feel it.” Out is the Fox News culture warrior; in is the general-interest role model who not only will shy away from politics, but never really liked them in the first place.
From USA Today, emphasis mine:
“We’ll definitely be talking about major developments out of Washington, but it’s not going to be the Trump channel. I just don’t think that’s what people are looking for.” And besides, despite her years at The Kelly File, “politics has never been something that’s important to me.”
It’s an interesting thing to say for someone who starred in Fox News’ coverage of the 2012 presidential campaign, frequently covered politics for a primetime cable news show the following four years, and then moderated a 2016 GOP primary debate in which she notably clashed with Donald Trump. That exchange, coupled with her speaking out against former Fox News boss Roger Ailes’ sexual harassment allegations, elevated Kelly to a precariously granted status as a would-be feminist icon. She parlayed it into a new gig at NBC, where she has since used her weekly newsmagazine show, Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly, to interview political figures, like Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, and politics-adjacent characters, like fake-news maestro and Trump fanboy Alex Jones.
Politics has never been important to the woman who, as The New York Times reported in 2015, studied political science in college and even won a seat on the student senate. Never mind all those times she was interested enough to critique the work of other political journalists. Forget how geeked up she was about confronting Trump with a question about sexism at that now-famous GOP primary debate. As Kelly told Vanity Fair last year:
“I wrote [the question]. I researched each line item myself. It was interesting to me after the debate when people started fact-checking my question. My own reaction was ‘Bring it on.’
The morning of the debate, while doing debate prep, she got violently ill. But, she says, “I would have crawled over a pile of hot coals to make it to that debate.”
Kelly drew huge audiences at Fox News in part because she’s a political animal, or at least has the skills suited to play one; NBC is betting that she can connect with people by faking being someone else entirely. If the ratings of her weekly show are any indication, viewers can see through the act.