When talented Time magazine colleague John Moody became a top Fox News Channel founder 20 years ago, the Religion Guy thought, “He’d better have a golden parachute because this is probably going to fail.”
After all, pioneer CNN was thoroughly entrenched, and newborn rival MSNBC had rich corporate resources.
Ha. Nielsen tabulations show FNC not only topped those news competitors for all of 2016 but drew the #1 audience among all cable TV channels. Remarkable. The question now becomes whether the defection of 9 p.m. shining star Megyn Kelly to NBC will hurt ratings.
Don’t bet against Fox News. But, hey, how about giving religion correspondent Lauren Green more airtime! Think about it. What percentage of Fox News viewers are concerned about issues of religion, family and culture?
Inside FNC, that which Ailes (Roger, that is) produced a tumultuous year. And the same for Kelly, who just issued an autobiography, “Settle For More” (Harper). The Guy approached this book with mild interest, but was quickly swept up by insider scoop about her role in the Roger Ailes sexual harassment scandal and her behind-scenes account about dealings with the new president and his followers.
The months of Donald Trump strangeness were perhaps without precedent in news annals.
Imagine trying to give fair coverage to the Trump campaign despite the candidate’s harangues and alongside followers’ social-media filth and death threats with armed guards accompanying your youngsters. Journalistic fame can exact a high price. An evangelical hero, attorney David French, suffered similar abuse from fans -- this is a must-read -- after becoming a NeverTrumper.
Apparently due to the publishing deadline, Kelly doesn’t moralize about Mr. Trump’s “Access Hollywood” bragging about unwanted sexual groping. On that, and other topics, the book leaves a big vacuum that some Godbeat specialist should fill with a good interview when her shows launch on NBC (whose parent firm, incidentally, invested $400 million in BuzzFeed of Trump dossier infamy).
In particular, the book shuns reflections on whether and how religion might have shaped Kelly’s decisions during the Ailes and Trump entanglements. (See this earlier GetReligion post on similar issues in a Vanity Fair profile of Kelly.)
In the end, readers learn more about angst over 7th grade bullies, high school acne, the rigors of breaking into a hotshot law firm, and the TV news grind.
Kelly depicts her parents as very devout Catholics. Her father, a professor, “lived a life of faith and scholarship” and before marriage considered a celibate vocation with the Christian Brothers. There was “no moral relativism at our house.” Struggling to comprehend her beloved father’s death, the teenage Kelly eventually reasoned, “Who are we, as mere mortals, to say there is no power beyond? To presume all of this energy, this beautiful, strong, complex energy, just dies when our hearts stop beating?”
Though Kelly clearly identifies as Catholic, she suggests personal opposition to official birth-control teaching. On abortion, she realized another pregnancy could interfere with her blooming career but concluded, “We cannot make decisions about our children on what works for Fox. We have to do what works for us.” To others, the point is “what works” for the unborn child.
Another delicate aspect to explore is that Kelly personifies millions of American Catholics coping with the divorce question that is currently roiling her church. She and her physician first husband were sacramentally married in a Catholic ceremony with five priests present. But they were terribly ambitious, time-robbed professionals who drifted apart and divorced.
Kelly’s second marriage, to Presbyterian businessman-turned-novelist Douglas Brunt, was conducted by Kelly Wright, an FNC colleague and Protestant pastor. But she does her best to attend weekly Mass and is raising her children as Catholic (the oldest has First Communion this year). She calls occasional FNC talking head Jonathan Morris the family priest, but considers a sister-in-law “my spiritual guide” whose “philosophy is very empowering -- that everything we want or need in life we can have, and we can get for ourselves.”
Do we hear an amen from President Trump and his “prosperity gospel” boosters?