Megyn Kelly

Tale of two Foxes: What kind, or kinds, of conservative values drive Fox News?

Tale of two Foxes: What kind, or kinds, of conservative values drive Fox News?

The question came up again last week, at the same point in my "Journalism Foundations" syllabus where it always does every semester -- during my lecture on Stephen Colbert and the role of humor and entertainment in today's news marketplace.

First there is this question: In his original show on Comedy Central, who was Colbert satirizing while playing a blow-hard conservative pundit with the power ties, dark suits and the "I calls 'em like I sees 'em" no-spin attitude? Whose style and worldview was he turning inside-out?

It usually takes a few seconds, but then someone -- usually a student who was raised in a Fox News home -- will say, "Bill O'Reilly."

That leads to the next question: What is the name of the cultural and political philosophy that drives the editorial policies of O'Reilly and many, but not all, of the giants associated with the world of Rupert Murdoch?

Students always start off by saying, "conservative." Then I say: That's too vague. There are many kinds of conservatism in American politics. What kind of conservative is O'Reilly?

Students usually add something like "right-wing," "ultra" or "fanatic." Eventually, someone will say "libertarian." A student or two may have paid attention to the show and know that this means that O'Reilly leans left, or remains silent, on moral issues, but is hard right on matters of economics and everything else. His worldview is defined by radical individualism.

We then talk about other kinds of conservatism and, in particular, the fact that Fox News -- which has a massive following among all kinds of conservatives -- offers little or no news and commentary on religious events and trends. There are some moral and cultural conservatives in the operation, but they were not the dominant voices in the Roger Ailes era.

As you may have guessed, this leads us to the massive New York Times story that exploded into social media the other day, the one with this dramatic double-decker headline:

Bill O’Reilly Thrives at Fox News, Even as Harassment Settlements Add Up
About $13 million has been paid out over the years to address complaints from women about Mr. O’Reilly’s behavior. He denies the claims have merit.

It's logical to ask: What does religion have to do with this story?

I would answer by saying, "I don't know."

However, my observation is that the Times team stacks up all kinds of facts -- many, but not all, with on-the-record sources -- that certainly seem to show that O'Reilly acts like he is a moral free agent when it comes to his attitudes toward women, sex and power.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Star of the moment Megyn Kelly offers mere glimpses of her Catholicism in autobiography

Star of the moment Megyn Kelly offers mere glimpses of her Catholicism in autobiography

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.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Concerning Megyn Kelly in Vanity Fair: Raising 'spiritual' question about her Fox News work

Concerning Megyn Kelly in Vanity Fair: Raising 'spiritual' question about her Fox News work

GetReligion readers, I have a question for you. Which news network has consistently shown a greater commitment to original reporting on religion events and trends, Fox News or Al Jazeera?

When answering this question, it might help to visit the Al Jazeera landing page for "Religion, Spirituality & Ethics" and then do the same for the "religion" search category at Fox News. What you are looking for is actual hands-on reporting work done by the personnel in these newsrooms, as opposed to pieces built totally on wire-service reports.

I raise this question because, year after year, people ask me why Fox News -- in light of its massive audience share among culturally conservative news consumers -- doesn't do more reporting on religion topics (as opposed to the usual commentary pieces and talk-show work). This also comes up in my classroom work, as I have mentioned before:

One of the most interesting discussions that I have with journalism students every semester is the moment when I ask them to identify the specific cultural and political philosophy that drives the editorial policies of Fox News and other giants associated with the world of Rupert Murdoch.
They always say, "Conservative" or "right wing."
Then I ask them this question: "What kind of conservatism?"

The answer, of course, is a kind of secular Libertarian stance that isn't comfortable with a conservatism rooted in moral and cultural values.

This brings me to that new Vanity Fair piece on Fox superstar Megyn Kelly, which -- right at the very end -- contains a major, major fumble when it comes to digging into a crucial statement linked to religious faith and moral issues.

But first, who is Megyn Kelly?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Does the Trump phenomenon tell us something about state of American religion?

Does the Trump phenomenon tell us something about state of American religion?

The news media are understandably going ga-ga over Donald Trump’s unconventional campaign for president and its surprising success. What would analysts of U.S. popular religious culture tell journalists about the long-term trends this displays, especially regarding evangelicals who are at the heart of today’s Republican coalition?

Some themes to test out:

To begin, a mid-July Washington Post/ABC poll showed Trump is by far the current favorite among white Republicans who identify as evangelicals, at 20 percent (compared with 24 percent among Republicans as a whole). Yet Trump spurns characteristics thatpious churchgoers would have wanted not so long ago. Are those values changing, or is the old-time religion  losing its grip on the nationalsoul?

Let's leave aside Trump's signature issue of immigration, on which evangelicals hold various views, and turn to this:  A campaign joke making the rounds says Trump believes so much in traditional marriage that he’s had three of them. Some figure triple marriage and double divorce undercut Newt Gingrich’s Bible Belt showing in 2012. It’s possible  Democrat Adlai Stevenson was hurt by his divorce three years before the 1952 campaign, though he did not remarry. Hard to know since he was up against the Eisenhower tsunami.

Most pundits figured Nelson Rockefeller’s divorce and 1963 remarriage to Margaretta (“Happy”) Murphy doomed his 1964 presidential prospects. The remarried Ronald Reagan broke the taboo in 1980, yet he remains the only U.S. President to have been divorced. Along with that, actor Reagan overcame conservative Protestants’ longstanding suspicion toward Hollywood and the entertainment industry.

Marital issues lead into gender issues.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Digging in: Yes, this is another headline containing the all-important search term 'Duggars'

Digging in: Yes, this is another headline containing the all-important search term 'Duggars'

I realize that, in the current Washington Post effort to organize and increase its religion coverage (we applaud, of course) the flag headline "Acts of Faith" has become a kind of logo and catch-phrase to attract readers.

Still, I wonder if anyone at the copy desk stopped for a second before producing the following double-decker head on the tabloid-esque story of the week, producing some rather painful content when read in one flow:

Acts of Faith
Josh Duggar molested four of his sisters and a babysitter, parents tell Fox News

Hang on, because we will get to the content of the Post story, which was actually quite straightforward and subdued -- in contrast to the take-no-prisoners tone of some of the other coverage.

Religion News Service also produced a rather flat, sensible news piece, but as is the norm in the edgy social-media age, felt the need to wave the editorial flag with this bite of snark in the promo headline atop the daily email newsletter:

Duggars keep digging

As in the Duggars keep digging their own grave, of course.

Please respect our Commenting Policy