A mainstream media outlet giving Megyn Kelly her own show after years of questionable rhetoric on her Fox News program raised eyebrows. While it was certainly laudable of her to stand up to Donald Trump during a primary debate, and Americans on the left could certainly relate to her experiences with sexual harassment, those moments of racist comments from her past weren’t erased in the memories of those who remembered them.
One American who most certainly remembers them is former NBA superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Writing an op-ed for Hollywood Reporter, Abdul-Jabbar addressed the question of whether or not Megyn Kelly, with her comments on blackface and white Santas, is racist.
‘The complication is that there are two major categories of racist: ignorant and deliberate. The ignorant racist may behave in bigoted ways because they don’t realize that what they are doing or saying is genuinely offensive. They could be a warm and wonderful human being but completely clueless of how they are negatively affecting others. Often, when they learn that they were inadvertently behaving badly or held inaccurate beliefs, they will feel shame and change their behavior. The deliberate racist is proudly ignorant and wishes harm to their target.’
This, he says, is the problem with people like Kelly. While she insists that she means no harm and holds no racist beliefs, it isn’t as if she could have missed the endless conversations about microagressions like white people wearing blackface and police brutality against black Americans.
‘She’s an educated person with a news background, so there’s no way she is not informed on the issue. Which means she deliberately, without regard to the harm she would inflict on people of color, chose to pull out this old controversy. Not quite a hate crime, but hate crime-adjacent.’
It’s difficult to imagine what NBC must have expected when they hired Megyn Kelly to host her own show, especially one as publicly visible as the Today show. Given her history of making racist comments, benign as she swears they all have been, NBC is equally culpable for giving her such a large platform.
Firing her now, Abdul-Jabbar says, is a step in the right direction. However, it doesn’t take away from the fact that NBC hired an outspoken racist to begin with. Neither Kelly
‘Should she be fired? In the best of all possible worlds, yes. Either she deliberately was racist in order to juice her flagging ratings, or she was too dumb to know it was racist, which is inexcusable for a newsperson. Either reason is grounds for dismissal. However, this is not the best of all possible worlds, and NBC might have sent her a mixed message when hiring her. Kelly made consistently racist statements while at Fox News, so when NBC hired her in 2017, its executives were saying: We’re rewarding your racism on Fox by paying you $69 million over three years. Then when she does the same thing that got her that mega-payday, NBC suddenly expresses socially conscious outrage. Not quite racist, but racist-adjacent. Firing Kelly does not wash away everyone’s past sins, but it’s still a cleansing moment.’