Within the partisan halls of FOX News studios, Megyn Kelly seems to be more grounded in reality than some of the other on-air talent employed by FOX. Sure, she speaks in double-standards, hyperbole, and rhetoric - but that has become standard for any major news network. She comes across as snide and judgmental, but that might be an expectation from her employer. She is one of the rare voices in her environment who was critical of the anti-vax movement, appearing on The O’Reilly Factor to discredit the link between vaccines and autism. For that alone, I thank her.
photo courtesy of Business Insider
That being said, her show is not one I find informative or entertaining. She is not (as FOX News chairman Roger Ailes claims) "a brilliant journalist." She is articulate and can toe the party line, but reading from a teleprompter hardly translates into brilliant journalism.
Then came last week's debates.
I did not watch it live. Cooking dinner and hanging out with my kids ranked higher in my priorities than watching a flock of campaigning hopefuls berate each other.
There were highlights which I watched on replay. And one flap that has dominated news-feeds every day since: Trump vs. Kelly.
The drama stems from questions Kelly asked of Trump and Trump's opinion that the questions were unfairly stacked against him. Is this his narcissistic attempt to martyr himself? Perhaps. Is this the manifestation of political ego taken to the furthest possible extent? Possible. Is this a clash of strong personalities? Most likely.
Regardless of your opinion of either feuding celebrity, there are a few observations that I hope do not get missed.
1. Megyn Kelly was just doing her job. You cannot hold the questions she asked against her. She did not choose the questions. She was given a list of what to ask of which candidates. Holding her responsible for the selection of inquiries is akin to blaming a waitress when a chef's food tastes bad.
A friend of mine brought up a point about the contentious exchange; she lost the professional high ground by allowing her emotions to show. She may be guilty of being unprofessional, but you cannot blame her for being "astonishingly biased" or having a "hidden agenda" as Trump alleged when she was following a script handed to her by her bosses.
2. No one deserves to be treated the way Trump has treated Megyn Kelly. For a moment, assume the worst of Kelly. Accept Trump's accusations that she bombed and did not do a good job, does that earn a ranting stream of consciousness series of venomous tweets at 2:40 in the morning?
These are the actions of a teenaged bully. This is the result of of an abusive temperament that has ran unabated for far too long. Such behavior is an affront to human dignity that should be actively discouraged.
3. Misogyny is ugly. Menstruation should not be the punchline to a joke nor used as a tool to demean female opponents. No woman should ever be called a bimbo.
4. You don't have to like someone to show them respect. This is the most basic lesson in humanities that every kid has been taught since they were old enough to talk and walk. We call it the golden rule: treat others in the way you wish to be treated.
Let me be clear, I do not like Megyn Kelly. But I do respect what she has been able to accomplish. I respect that she is an intelligent and influential woman. My personal preference against her does not detract from the fact that she deserves the same level of common courtesy as any other person on this planet.
5. When you demand others show you respect but refuse to treat others with respect, there is one simple word to describe you: Hypocrite.
6. When did kindness and courtesy become political correctness? There is such a thing as being politically correct, and there is a valid complaint that some people take political correctness to absurd levels.
But to castigate every person or group of people that you eschew is not being politically incorrect, it is being rude. Clinging to every racial and sexist stereotype to justify your biases is not being politically incorrect, it is racism and sexism. Shooting from the hip is not expediency, it is recklessness.
7. Arrogance and selfishness are not virtues. It might make you wealthy. It might grant you notoriety. But a jerk is still a jerk regardless of whether they are rich and famous or unknown and balling on a budget.
When people say that they do not have time to be politically correct, what I hear is that being nice takes too much effort. At the root of such sentiment is a self absorbed belief that you are entitled to act like an ass because you are better than everyone else.
8. Showing kindness and respect does not exclude the possibility for criticism. Pointing out fault or error does not require insults.
If someone misstates the facts, it should be called out and corrected. If someone behaves inappropriately, it warrants admonition. However, misbehavior and dishonesty should not be counteracted with derogatory comments.
In the wake of last week's spat, Roger Ailes is trying to smooth things over with Donald Trump. The war of words between Trump and Kelly will settle down, but Trump will continue to dominate headlines for the foreseeable future. Why? Because he is brash and spiteful. Half of America applauds his arrogance with a hint of jealousy that that he can say the horrible things they think without consequence. The other half of America observes in amused horror like watching a car crash in slow motion.
It makes me sad. It is a pathetic testament of our culture when the most obnoxious and vitriolic find the most frequent recognition.
For that reason alone, I will side with FOX News for the first and possibly only time in my life: "Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president?"