OPINION: NBC needs to pull Megyn Kelly's interview with Alex Jones
It's become abundantly clear that NBC News needs to pull Megyn Kelly's interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones before it airs this Sunday night.
 
Reason? There is absolutely no upside in providing Jones this kind of national platform on a network news magazine, particularly the kind that just debuted 15 days ago. As you probably know by now, Jones has maintained for years the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre that resulted in the murders of 20 young children never happened and that their grieving parents were simply actors in some kind of sick play.
 
How bad are the optics already? Sandy Hook parents are voicing their disgust on Twitter, including Nelba Márquez-Greene, who lost her daughter on that unthinkable day.
 
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Kelly sent a tweet noting that then-candidate Trump appeared on Jones's program in 2015. She also promised in the same tweet the exchange with Jones was "riveting," which triggered this response from Márquez-Greene.
 
Márquez-Greene also notes that the interview will air on Father's Day.Nicole Hockley co-founded Sandy Hook Promise after losing her 6-year-old, Dylan.

"Sandy Hook Promise cannot support the decision by Megyn or NBC to give any form of voice or platform to Alex Jones and have asked Megyn Kelly to step down as our Promise Champion Gala host," she said in a statement on Monday. "It is our hope that Megyn and NBC reconsider and not broadcast this interview."
 
Kelly, 46 and a mother of three young children, responded to Hockley. 
 
"I understand and respect the decision of the event organizers but I'm of course disappointed that I won't be there to support them on Wednesday night," Kelly wrote in a statement.
 
"I find Alex Jones's suggestion that Sandy Hook was 'a hoax' as personally revolting as every other rational person does," she continued. "It left me, and many other Americans, asking the very question that prompted this interview: how does Jones, who traffics in these outrageous conspiracy theories, have the respect of the president of the United States and a growing audience of millions.

"President Trump, by praising him and citing him, appearing on his show [in 2015], and giving him White House press credentials, has helped elevate Jones, to the alarm of many." 

The White House has denied on two occasions that Jones's InfoWars was given press credentials despite the host's claims that he was provided them. InfoWars did gain a one-day press pass, however, which are relatively easy to obtain in this and past administrations. 

"Our goal in sitting down with him was to shine a light – as journalists are supposed to do – on this influential figure, and yes, to discuss the considerable falsehoods he has promoted with near impunity," Kelly concluded.
 
The headlines around the controversy are everywhere and has been one of the top trending stories on Twitter. J.P. Morgan has reportedly pulled its ads in protest. And you know how it works from here if recent precedent with Kelly's former colleague Bill O'Reilly is any indication: One major sponsor goes, others follow, network caves, film at 11. 
 
One could argue that the controversy will only draw more viewers to the program, but at what cost?
 
NBC really needs to consider the damage this will do to Kelly's reputation in just her third episode at her new network. Critics – and there are many with few defenders – are calling the interview a cheap ratings grab for her show, "Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly," a program that will air through the summer before disappearing for six months to make room for the top-rated Sunday Night Football.
 
With that backdrop around a show that won't be given the proper time to build a following before being taken off the air for extended period, it only makes the Jones interview even less worth airing – if that's possible at this point. 

On a radio show in 2015, Jones called the Sandy Hook tragedy “synthetic, completely fake with actors” and a “manufactured incident.”

Kelly's executive producer defended the decision to interview Jones, asking viewers to "judge it when you see it."

"Viewers will see Megyn do a strong interview where she challenges him appropriately,” EP Liz Cole said. “That's the benefit of putting him out there. When someone actually sits down and asks him questions and he has to come up with answers–there's value to that.

"Until you see the full program, in the full context, I wouldn't judge it too much. Judge it when you see it,” she added.

Was the decision to go ahead with Jones as a featured interview on Kelly's show totally out of left field? No. Jones has a relatively large following, holds influence and therefore worth examination. 

But there is a reason no other network has provided him this kind of stage before. And we're seeing why play out this week in the form of outrage over this interview.

Christina Hassinger, whose mother was among the dead at Sandy Hook, had this to say on Twitter about Jones' assertion that families of the victims were hired actors.

"This piece of actual garbage encourages people to call my mom’s death a hoax and harass other Sandy Hook families. Shame on you @MegynKelly.”

There's an argument being made that murderers get interviewed all the time on such programs. But here's the thing. The murderer almost never disputes that he or she committed the crime and therefore makes the conversation reality-based. Jones's assertion is not and therefore doesn't bring any value in "putting him out there."

Jones, in an obvious attempt to create a hate-watching scenario, is now calling on Kelly to pull the interview for “misrepresenting my views on Sandy Hook."

This is what happens when providing a person who peddles the worst kind of fiction a platform to share his "views" that have no basis in reality.

If NBC wants to protect its reported $17 million investment per year in Megyn Kelly, it will pull this interview.

And then they'll apologize to the families of the victims of Sandy Hook  for going ahead with it in the first place and reopening wounds that will never heal. In a related story, some of Jones's followers are now harassing Sandy Hook parents on social media, demanding "evidence" the massacre actually occurred. It's sick.

Anything short of that will be a PR disaster from which the host's hard-earned reputation as a solid journalist may have difficulty recovering from.

Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) is a media reporter for The Hill.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.