Megyn Kelly is considering her options as her contract with Fox News nears its end. Commentators, accordingly, are offering opinions. Yesterday MSNBC host Joe Scarborough lent his own experience in the industry to this topic. The gist: Before Kelly considers leaving Fox News, she should consider the example of Glenn Beck, a CNN nobody before Fox News signed him, and a nobody again after his 2011 departure from Fox News.
“Perhaps Kelly could succeed where Beck has failed. But if I were Kelly’s agent, I would take a long hard look before telling my client to take that leap,” writes Scarborough, who even advocates a chitchat between Kelly and Beck: “If Kelly wants to leave Fox News for family reasons, good for her. But if Kelly is thinking of escaping Roger Ailes and Fox News because she thinks she has outgrown the man and his star-making machinery, I humbly offer a friendly suggestion: Call Glenn Beck.”
Yeah, call Glenn Beck — and soak in a tide of incoherence.
What Scarborough leaves out of his account are substance and history. He speaks of Beck’s 2011 departure from Fox News as if it’s parallel to what Kelly may be considering. That would be a hard stunt to pull off. Whereas Kelly’s prime-time Fox News tenure is the stuff of fluffy magazine profile after fluffy magazine profile, Beck’s time at Fox News consisted of outright broadcasting lunacy filled with conspiracy theories and flights of fancy that not even cable news could abide. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank chronicled a great many of them in his book, “Tears of a Clown: Glenn Beck and the Tea Bagging of America.” Wrote Milbank in an excerpt:
At this writing, in the early summer of 2010, Beck has in the last few weeks: mocked the president’s 11-year-old daughter; praised Joseph McCarthy; recommended the work of an anti-Semitic author; released a “rooted in fact” thriller about the United States succumbing to a world government; marveled that a Sarah Palin biographer has not been punched in the face; and given his considered opinion that the private sector “could probably take care of things in Afghanistan better” than U.S. troops. Beck has been in what might be called an Ann Coulter spiral: Each outrage must pack more shock value than the previous. The difference is that Beck, unlike Coulter, has millions of passionate followers.
It was under these stresses that Fox News in 2011 announced that Beck would be departing. The move followed the desertion of advertisers from his show, a reaction to his hateful remarks. A couple of years after his exit, Beck attempted to spin the events by saying that he had to leave Fox News to save his “soul.” Fox News lashed back: “Glenn Beck wasn’t trying to save his soul, he was trying to save his a––. Advertisers fled his show and even Glenn knows what that means in our industry. Yet, we still tried to give him a soft landing. Guess no good deed goes unpunished.”
Now for a quiz: What part of this sequences begs a comparison with the trajectory of Megyn Kelly? Is it possible, Mr. Scarborough, that the events leading to Beck’s departure from Fox News also account for his irrelevance post-Fox News?
Another point: When asked about her future plans, Kelly has mused not about building a self-inflating media empire a la Glenn Beck, but about this: “How about if we merge a little Charlie Rose, a little Oprah, and a little me all together. And we serve that up as an hour? Wouldn’t you watch that?”