Megyn Kelly's interview with Alex Jones was a mistake
© Screenshot
As expected from her Sunday evening interview, Megyn Kelly grilled Alex Jones on all the conspiracy theories he's pushed over the years, particularly the patently-sick one on the Sandy Hook massacre that left 20 young children and six adults dead. Reviews of the package have been mixed.
 
But the only two questions that really need to be asked up front are this:

Was it really worth the pain this interview caused the families of Newtown shooting victims?

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Did we learn anything new?

 

The answers to both are no and no.

But Kelly created "buzz" and attention for her new show, right?

Yes, but at the expense of these families who got a fresh dose of harassment from Jones's followers online.

And on Father's Day, no less, as noted by Sandy Hook mom Nelba Márquez-Greene, who lost her daughter on that unthinkable day.

Yes, the optics on this were as bad as we've seen going into any network interview in recent memory. And there were also three big problems with this interview going in that aren't going away anytime soon. 

One problem was the promotional photos for the interview that included Kelly and Jones looking like they were on a Tinder date pulling up to a drive-thru. 

Whose idea was this, exactly? 



A common argument for those defending the Jones interview is that murderers like Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer have been interviewed on national television in the past. 

But ask yourself this: Did Manson pose for smiling photos with Geraldo Rivera when he was with ABC? Did Stone Phillips with Dahmer for NBC? 

Do the families of Sandy Hook, who begged Kelly and NBC not to give Jones this kind of platform, really need to see that kind of photo featuring a man whose followers again are demanding of the parents "proof" of their children's deaths? 

Is an apology coming for promoting this interview in such a cheesy, insulting way? 

Kelly finished third in her timeslot in total viewers on Sunday night, just as she did with her debut featuring a we-learned-nothing-new-either interview with Russian president Vladimir Putin. The following week saw a 42 percent drop in viewers and the program was beaten not only by a rerun of "60 Minutes" but also repeat of "America's Funniest Home Video." 

This week, after all the hype and controversy, Kelly finished third again in both total viewers and the demo per early Nielsen data provided Monday morning. 

7:00 p.m.

ABC – “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (R): 2.2/ 5 (#4)
CBS – “60 Minutes” (R): 4.0/ 9 (#2)
NBC – “Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly”: 2.7/ 6 (#3)
Fox – 2017 U.S. Open Golf Championship: 5.2/12 (#1)

For those keeping score at home, a repeat of "60 Minutes beat "Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly" by 38 percent. 

Second problem: Kelly claimed in an interview leading up to the broadcast that Jones was granted a press pass by the White House press office. 

"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."

That's grossly misleading. The White House has denied on two occasions that Jones's Infowars was given press credentials despite the host's claims that they were provided. Infowars did gain a one-day press pass, however, which have been relatively easy to obtain in this and past administrations. 

 

 Third problem: The hot mess that was the rollout of this interview provided Jones got more exposure this week than probably the previous 100 weeks combined. Sponsors pulled ads. NBC reportedly re-edited the piece to look tougher than the laughable preview that was originally provided. And then there was this letter to NBC from an attorney representing 10 families who lost loved ones at Sandy Hook.

“[W]e cannot fathom - from a moral, ethical or legal standpoint - NBC’s decision to amplify the voice of a man who ... has weaponized his radio show to publish false and defamatory statements about our clients; chief among them that they are actors perpetuating a massive fraud on the American public by faking the deaths of their loved ones,” the letter reads. 

“By choosing to air his interview with Ms. Kelly at all - let alone at prime time on Father’s Day - NBC has tendered its good name and considerable influence to provide Mr. Jones with something he has never enjoyed: legitimacy.”

A few more easy questions after watching the interview: 

Did Kelly expose him as a fraud? Yes. 

Was that really a tough task given how easy it is to disprove his conspiracy? Nope. 

Did any of Jones's followers change their minds about him? Nope. 

Did he gain more followers in the process? Yup. 

The timing comes into question here as well. Critics said it looked like a blatant ratings-grab for a show trying to find an audience. And those critics were right. 

Why Jones now? Because Trump did an interview with him two years ago? His Sandy Hook comments came years ago as well. And there's a reason no traditional network has given him a national platform in the form of an interview in years: Not because of censorship, but sound editorial judgment. 

Kelly had a highly-rated primetime program on Fox News since 2014. If it was so important to interview Jones on NBC, why didn't it happen on "The Kelly File" while she was with her previous employer?

In the end, Kelly gave Jones ten more minutes than Vladimir Putin. 

Ten. 

It should have been zero in the first place. 

Kelly told Jones in a phone conversation he ended up leaking that she's "not going to be Barbara Walters." 

That much is true. 

Walters' interviewing prowess is on a whole other level. 

And Barbara never had to resort to doing the kinds of interviews usually reserved for Jerry Springer. 

Alex Jones got a grilling Sunday night. 

He also got a big stage. 

All while the families of Newtown got a needless reminder. 

All because of a need to create "buzz" that landed the show in a distant third place again.

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.