I don't quite know what to make about Megyn Kelly announcing last week that she's taking a 10-day vacation from her "Fox News" hosting duties.
Now, it's possible that she had this vacation planned all along. But my understanding (and this is been a little bit though to confirm) is that it if she that was the case, it had only been three days. So, an extra weeks appears to have been tacked on, at best.
It's difficult to know if this is at her request, coming as it does following the bizarre controversy between her and Donald Trump with her debate question, and his response -- and his follow-up slams. And the Fox viewer responses towards her that have apparently been vicious. Or if it was Fox's choice? And whoever made the decision -- was it done to let passions cool down, or more out of petulance, by either side??
Whatever the answer, it's hard to imagine that this was just a planned vacation. In part because of the timing, in part because of the (apparently) added days, in part because of the reactions on all sides, but also in large part because of her own announcement on her show.
Hosts do sometimes announce their time off, but not always, and it's usually very brief. "Ill be take taking off for a week. Jerry Granvile will be sitting in here, so you'll be in good hands." But Ms. Kelly awkwardly and almost breathlessly goes out of her way to explain why she's taking time off. And it's basically because she's been SO stressed from working so hard that she needs it. Noting, too, that "It's been an interesting week." There's a whole lot of "Methinks she doth protest to much" going on here for it just to be "I'm going on vacation, see you soon."
By the way, the only thing I do know about all this is that the whole controversy is insane, and that it speaks volumes about "Fox News" viewers and management. And I am 100% in support of Megyn Kelly, who did absolutely nothing wrong and acted only as a normal journalist, asking a rational question. The problem, of course, is that this was on "Fox News", where "normal journalist" and "rational question" can be the cause of angst and outrage.
This was a debate of 10 people running for President of the United States. They'd darn well better be prepared and able to take incredibly hard questions, the most difficult questions possible. (As Kelly herself noted to Mr. Trump, "If you can’t get past me, how are you going to handle Vladimir Putin?") And the thing is, she asked several pointed, and very fair questions to the range of candidates, not just to poor victim Donald Trump. And the thing is even more -- the question she asked to Donald Trump was pretty easy. Not quite a softball, but not far off. What made it perhaps seem oh-so tough was the set-up to put the question in context. But the question itself when she got around to asking it was easy. And it all even began with a compliment. And the only reason the context seemed oh-so tough was because Donald Trump had created a very bad foundation for himself.
Just as a reminder, lest reality be lost in in the weeds, here's the question, minus Donald Trump's interruption quip to get a mean-spirited laugh --
"Mr. Trump, one of the things people love about you is you speak your mind and you don’t use a politician’s filter. However, that is not without its downsides, in particular, when it comes to women...Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women’s looks. You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president, and how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who was likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women?"
As Ms. Kelly, said, If you can’t get past an easy question like that, how are you going to handle Vladimir Putin?
For all the words that have subsequently come, and all the positioning and posturing, let's be clear about something. That is not a hard question. That is not an angry question. It is a pointed, fair and easy question put in context with facts that should be asked because Megyn Kelly is right -- if Mr. Trump is the GOP nominee, the Democratic candidate, most especially if it's Hillary Clinton, will ask it, so it will have to be addressed. Might as well address it in friendly surroundings with an audience cheering.
In fact, if Donald Trump had just stopped at his response about "political correctness" that received those cheers from the audience, he probably would have been fine on just that alone, that's how easy the question was. And if he'd added, "Sometimes as a public figure on TV I say things for hyperbole that aren't politically correct. It has nothing to do with temperament, my temperament is fine. It has to do with getting people's attention amid all the noise. And the truth is, I think the world of women and actually think our government should do more for them. And if there's a war on women it's the Democrats who..." -- and then he could have gone on to completely change the attention away from the question while making a triumphal speech on behalf of women while slamming the opposition that would have got people cheering even more...he would have changed everything entirely to his favor.
Because it was that an easy question.
"Do you have the temperament to be president?" Yes, I do. Man, is that a tough question. And if you can't handle that, how can you even expect to handle Vladmir Putin???!!
But this here isn't about Donald Trump, because he'd not going to be president or the GOP nominee. The point of this is Megyn Kelly taking a vacation as a result of all this. Because it was her choice, or management's choice, or the pressure and anger of the viewers for her asking such a mean old question to poor Donald Trump, made worse perhaps because she's a woman.
And the thing is, it doesn't fully matter what the answer to this is -- though it's not without meaning. But what matters is that this whole incident and vacation have ripped open the door in public view to the "Fox News" audience and management about who precisely they are. And it's not a pretty sight. Nor does it have anything to do with "news."
People who watch a news organization expect hard question, and news organizations expect to ask hard questions because that reveals news. Only if you aren't an actual news organization and your viewers only want to watch with blinders and filters are will there be anger at asking people running for President of the United States a "hard" question. That anger only comes if your viewers are expecting to be watching a PR outlet where everything presented for your side is positive puffery. The response from "Fox News" and its viewers isn't that of anyone who actually wants "We report, you decide." This whole pathetic controversy has absolutely nothing to do with reporting. It's been the antithesis of reporting, it's been outrage at reporting, and acquiescence to that outrage.
There is only one legitimate response from any actual news organization to Donald Trump's hissy fit. "We hope that Mr. Trump will be at the next debate, but if he doesn't t want to show up, he has until next Tuesday to let us know, in which case we'll fill the spot with someone else."
There is only one legitimate response from viewers who want actual news. "If you can't handle a question about calling women fat and pigs and slobs who should be on their knees, maybe you shouldn't be running for president. Or shouldn't be calling women fat and pigs and slobs in the first place."
But this has nothing to do with "news." Nor does "Fox News" and its viewers. And thanks to viewer reaction and the organizational response, that curtain has been torn down and shredded the PR puffery facade has been made as clear as possible.
Here's hoping Megyn Kelly has a nice vacation...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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