The Fox on Fox
Megyn Kelly, a post-feminist news babe.
The future of Fox News began on Feb. 1, when Megyn Kelly popped up behind the anchor desk on a new two-hour show called America Live (1 p.m. ET). The program itself is not anything special, nor does it need to be. As a midday show, its sole purpose is to keep a stream of information—meaningless and otherwise—flowing at a decent pace. As a Fox News offering, it just needs to throw out some red-state red meat, U.S. commercial grade or higher, every other block. But Kelly, here working for the first time as a solo anchor, is a natural. "She seems to be progressing through Fox's star-making machinery," the New York Times recently understated. The article went on to note that the contract of Greta Van Susteren, Fox News' 10 p.m. anchor, expires at the end of the year. It can't be news to Greta that Kelly, her presentation sharp and jazzy, is more than ready for prime time.
Megyn's Manhattan studio offers a view of Sixth Avenue by way of a video screen and of her legs by way of a clear plastic desk. The desk is positioned atop a map of the 48 contiguous states such that Kansas City would seem to have a good view up her skirt. If it is less than gallant to make such an observation, it is more than fair to believe that Kelly would be OK with that.
On Tuesday, for reasons unknown, one of her colleagues presented us with a photo of Kelly wearing a strapless dress, tan lines glowing, at some black-tie function, and she heaved a deep laugh when he said, "I just think you look fabulous in that dress you're not wearing in this photograph, Megyn." On Wednesday, when she thanked spy novelist Alex Berenson for coming in for an interview, he submitted that any red-blooded American male would rush to bask in her glow, and she said, "Honesty—so refreshing!" Then she recommended that her female viewers give the men in their lives a Berenson book for Valentine's Day: "You could deliver it in a saucy little outfit, combine everything all in one." Secure enough in her intelligence to be comfortably upfront about working her sex appeal, Megyn Kelly qualifies as a post-feminist news babe. Don't laugh me out of room for saying so; the case is tighter than Anderson Cooper's T-shirt.
In any event, you cannot write her off as a bimbo just because her wavy hair shines the same color as the bullion bricks in the commercial breaks' many advertisements for gold. She has a former lawyer's precision with language, an appetite for sparring, a natural understanding of news reading as performance art, and the rare skill (a guest of hers has mentioned) for relaxing her guests to the point that they forget they're on television. Though she has a mastery of the dark arts of offering false equivalency as balance and unironically chastising "the mainstream media," she also calls herself out for editorializing.
As the flow keeps flowing—news updates, breaking stories, Beltway chatter, tabloid potboilers, prefabricated outrages, self-promotional bits, perhaps a panda or puppy or such if it's cute enough, awww—she shifts her articulation from business-channel staccato to mellow moseying as the situation requries, moving from solemnity to silliness with ease. Katie Couric herself could not pivot so elegantly from felony murder (a Florida story that surely earned its air time on the grounds of a horrific 911 tape) to innocent mischief (live coverage of an epic snowball fight at Dupont Circle). She clapped her hands for that snowball melee—not in the spirit of a cheerleader, mind you, more like a charming dinner-party hostess always delighted to have you over.
Troy Patterson is Slate's television critic.
Photograph of Megyn Kelly by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images.