The Maneater

Column: The problem with TV networks is their lack of logic

With NBC letting go of Megyn Kelly, I can’t help but ask: Why hire her in the first place?

Roshae Hemmings is a first year journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about civil rights.

“But what is racist?” was the beginning of the end for news anchor Megyn Kelly. The question, asked by Kelly during her NBC morning show “Megyn Kelly Today,” was in reference to what acceptable Halloween costumes are. "Because you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface on Halloween,” Kelly continued, “or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid that was OK, as long as you were dressing up as a character."

The comments were immediately met with backlash, with social media ablaze. NBC demanded Kelly apologize to her colleagues and her audience, but a tearful “I’m sorry,” did very little to put out the fire. Not too long after her controversial comments, Kelly was fired and her show was canceled.

Now, I feel like there is an expectation for me to “go in” on Kelly. Typically, I would refute what she said and give her a history lesson on why blackface is bad and how whiteface doesn’t have the same historical implications. However, my attention is directed to NBC and I raise the question: What were you guys thinking?

When I got the notification saying that Kelly got fired, was I happy? I mean, I guess. I wasn’t incredibly familiar with Kelly prior to or during her stint on NBC, therefore my investment in the situation was low. However, when I saw footage of her comments, I wasn’t incredibly surprised.

Prior to her NBC gig, Kelly was an anchor on Fox News. The hiring of Kelly on NBC is questionable because it brings into play the differing demographics. 60 percent of Fox News viewers considered themselves to be conservative. This is a stark contrast to MSNBC viewers, who are more mixed as it pertains to their ideologies, with 32 percent conservative, 23 percent moderate and 36 percent liberal, according to a 2012 Pew Research study. My goal here is not to say that Kelly is a direct representation of Fox News and their views, however there are conversations and opinions expressed on the network that are a complete 180 from those of NBC. With this in mind, it seems slightly illogical to give a platform to someone who’s opinions could clash with those of their target demographic.

Furthermore, comments like these aren’t considered to be out of the ordinary for the news station, with Kelly helping to contribute to the bigoted and intolerant reputation of the network shared primarily by non-conservatives. From claiming that Jesus is white to arguing about police shootings and brutality, Kelly is no stranger to controversy. Knowing this, why did NBC think that she would be a good fit for the network?

The same could’ve been asked of ABC when they decided to hire Roseanne Barr when bringing back her self-titled hit show, “Roseanne.” In the past, Barr has stirred the pot, whether it be with a Hitler themed photoshoot, screeching the National Anthem or stating her conspiracies about the Parkland shooting. When her racist tweets came out earlier this year, it shouldn’t have been a surprise.

“Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show,” ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey said in a statement. CEO of The Walt Disney Company Robert Iger tweeted out Dungey’s statement along with the sentiment, “There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing.” The show should have been canceled, yes, but I would beg to differ that the right thing to do was to not give her a platform in the first place.

President Donald Trump can also be used as an example in this case. President Trump made his platform and policies very clear during his election. If it wasn’t clear that he wasn’t the better choice for the nation’s president, then his comments about grabbing women by their genitalia and claiming that shooting people wouldn’t result in a loss of votes should have done him in, right? This obviously isn’t the case seeing as though he is the nation’s 45th president. Though despite all that he’s said, some of his supporters are just now realizing that he’s probably doing more harm than good, especially as far as the LGBTQ community and immigrants are concerned.

The thing that all of these examples have in common is that we are dealing with people that have, at some point or another, shown the public who they are and how they think.

With this being said, I truly do not understand why these networks hire people known for being racist and saying racist things, thinking the racist in them isn't going to come out. Then when these people say something appalling, networks are surprised and think they're doing something heroic by revoking their platform. It just doesn’t make sense.

In 2017, Kelly said to the Business Insider that "[I’ve] regret[ted] a lot of what I've said. I mean you're going to be on the air several hours a week live television, you're going to say stupid shit. That's just the reality you know." Granted, people make mistakes and say things that are incorrect, but what Kelly said wasn’t just factually wrong. It showed a lack of cultural awareness. NBC isn’t off the hook either--during this panel, not a single person of color was there to politely check Kelly.

On both ends there is a lack of cultural education that should not be tolerated as distributors of news. During the panel, Kelly stated that she thought blackface was something that was OK since she was a kid, and that in and of itself is an issue. The ignorance when it comes to cultural issues is something that is taught and because of this, that ignorance needs to be unlearned.

Moving forward, there needs to be some kind of cultural training at various news stations and publications to make journalists aware of cultural differences and history. And as it pertains to discussions like the one Kelly had on her show, there needs to be more people of color who are included in the conversation. Without the input and education by those that are directly impacted by things such as blackface, the potential for universal cultural awareness will be stifled.

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