Kelly met expectations on her much-anticipated NBC debut, featuring a heated interview with the Russian President
Megyn Kelly is back with a more aggressively centrist tone.
The freshest face on NBC News made her anchoring debut this evening with the first episode of her new magazine show “Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly.” The former Fox News host is known for her independent conservative persona and the tense conversation between her and Russian president Vladimir Putin suggests she’s still got it.
The much hyped interview was right on the zeitgeist: American intelligence has concluded that Russia interfered in last year’s presidential elections. There are also multiple ongoing investigations about potential collusion between Russia and members of Donald Trump’s campaign. Meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, the 46-year-old Kelly pushed the former KGB agent on those issues as well as his country’s treatment of opposition politicians and journalists.
The Russian leader returned fire with a stream of eye rolls and sarcastic asides. He said that Russia wouldn’t bother with interfering in American elections since all presidents were unfriendly to his country anyway, and floated a conspiracy theory that the Central Intelligence Agency assassinated John Kennedy. Putin also mocked the American political establishment for being obsessed with Russia. “You people are so creative over there. Good job! Your lives must be boring,” he told her, adding that he wasn’t aware of any specific communication between senior Trump aides like Mike Flynn and Jared Kushner with Russian representatives.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) June 4, 2017
(Kelly later said that Putin was much more pleasant once the cameras were off.)
“It was good, but not great,” says Adam Clayton Powell III, a senior fellow at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy. He thinks that Kelly could have pushed Putin a bit more in her questioning but that it was still a newsworthy piece. “If this were 20 years ago, Putin would be interviewed by Mike Wallace on ’60 Minutes’ and now, he’s on NBC with Megyn Kelly,” said Powell, a former senior executive at NPR and CBS News. “There’s no way, given her performance tonight, that they lose.”
Kelly seems to have adopted a different tone than at Fox, where she built a reputation for flaming the culture wars and occasionally challenging conservative orthodoxy. “This is the Megyn Kelly of NBC aiming at a much more centrist audience,” Powell said, adding that NBC is positioning her as its bridge to millennial women who don’t watch much cable TV.
— Megyn Kelly (@megynkelly) June 4, 2017
The network went out of its way to land a splashy interview for Kelly, who is reportedly on an $18 million annual salary. Kelly said she left to cover less politics and indeed, her new show also featured reports on elephant poaching in Africa and the importance of children learning manners. Moneyish publisher Dow Jones and Fox News’ parent company share common ownership.
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