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Megyn Kelly's interview with conspiracy nut goes better than some expected

I stayed out of the Megyn Kelly-Alex Jones controversy before her interview with the nutty conspiracy theorist aired.

Over the years, I've often seen pre-show hysteria become unwarranted. I remember when the CBS movie "The Reagans" was supposed to be a hit job, the content in "NYPD Blue" was supposed to be so despicable that many ABC affiliates wouldn't show the pilot, and the Fox series "The Simpsons" was supposed to destroy the behavior of the nation's youth.

More recently, I remember when former FBI director James Comey's testimony before a Senate hearing was supposed to be the TV event of the year.

So I wasn't surprised that Kelly's interview with the internet nut job wasn't as bad as many people predicted it to be in a 15-minute produced piece that had more narration than interview content.

Kelly is no Mike Wallace, and NBC's "Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly" is no "60 Minutes." Even when she is challenging someone, Kelly does it in a more gentle way than Wallace ever did or even Katie Couric still does. She even appears almost to be smiling when challenging someone.

But she wasn't as bad as many critics anticipated. She even got Jones, who repeatedly tried to make the media the villain, to noticeably sweat. She certainly wasn't as bad as the clips that NBC showed a week earlier that suggested she was going to go soft on Jones. Those clips were a disaster, not the full interview Sunday. Surely, NBC could have used some of her more challenging moments in the promo than the ones it showed a week earlier.

Kelly challenged Jones' nutty and hurtful takes on the Sandy Hook shootings and 9/11 and other lies that he had to retract because of legal action. With the later help of legendary anchor and media statesman Tom Brokaw, she also gave a good case for doing the interview when some thought it gave Jones free advertising to spread his hurtful lies.

She noted that President Trump listens to Jones, has been influenced by him and has praised him, which added to his profile. In a commentary at the end of the program after a story about the joys of living in New Zealand, Brokaw added that "we can't allow agents of hate to go unchallenged" and said it was time to take on such threats.

After the show ran, I replied to a tweet by my former boss, Margaret Sullivan, now an esteemed media writer for the Washington Post who has been critical of Kelly. She wrote: "Bottom line on NBC's Alex Jones piece: Strong editing gave it an edge & made him look like a kook. Still a win for him; boosts his profile."

I agreed with the first part of her tweet, was unsure of the second part.

My reply: "If it embarrasses the president enough to finally do the right thing and disavow Jones, it will be a win for her."

The president was collateral damage in Kelly's interview with Jones. No reasonable person of either party could watch that interview without concluding that Jones is a dangerous nut who spins conspiracy theories without any evidence.

My Twitter followers had a mixed reaction, with some liking my tweet and many more agreeing with a Twitter follower who asked: "What are the odds of that? Can this POTUS be embarrassed? I expect he'll double down on 'fake news' doing a hatchet job on his buddy."

Maybe so. But if so, even some of his supporters may question how much of his unacceptable behavior can be ignored because they agree with much of his political agenda.

Kelly's third Sunday program didn't get a local ratings bump from the controversy. It averaged a 4.2 rating for the hour on Channel 2. It was third in its time slot to mostly a repeat of "60 Minutes," which had a 5.8 rating on Channel 4, and a 5.4 rating for the final holes of the U.S. Open golf tournament on Channel 29. Kelly's program did barely beat golf for the 15 minutes of the Jones interview, 4.7-4.6.

One of the more amusing moments of Fox's golf coverage came after Joe Buck misidentified the current girlfriend of the winner, Brooks Koepka. Buck used the name of Koepka's former girlfriend before being corrected minutes later in a humorous way.

I'm not sure she would be laughing.


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