After two weeks of hype and controversy that preceded it, the episode of Megyn Kelly’s prime time NBC program Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly, featuring Kelly’s profile of and interview with Alex Jones, finally aired on the network Sunday night at 7 PM ET. The network’s executives, NBC’s competitors, television critics, journalists, and many interested viewers who have been following the story are now awaiting the overnight ratings – the ultimate bottom line – that will be available on Monday afternoon.
Kelly and her producers at NBC News obviously presumed that their decision to focus on Alex Jones, the much-maligned talk show host whose high traffic Infowars Web site is usually described by the mainstream media (MSM) as ground zero for bogus and dangerous conspiracy theories, would generate impressive ratings for her new show. Kelly is in the initial stages of needing to prove her audience pulling power on broadcast TV after abandoning her successful prime time spot at the Fox News cable channel early last January. At that time, she jumped to NBC News where she is reportedly being paid at least $15 million annually to become a marquee presence at the network – and to make Comcast, which owns NBC, big profits (the name of the game in television news these days).
There were two elements to the pre-Megyn Kelly/Alex Jones show controversies. First, the selection of Alex Jones as a subject for a profile that would be watched by millions did not go over well with Jones’s numerous critics, especially a number of relatives of deceased victims of the shooting rampage in 2012 at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Conn. that left 20 elementary school children and six adults dead. Like his initial questioning of the “truth” behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Jones’s comments and allegations in the months after the Sandy Hook massacre, perceived by many as inconsistent and erratic, struck a deep nerve that continues to throb almost five years later.
Second was Jones’s bombshell announcement on June 14 that he had secretly (and apparently legally accordng to Texas law) recorded Megyn Kelly’s phone calls to him during which she obsequiously promoted the idea of his appearing on her show. Jones also claimed that he had made his own recordings – again legally – of the four hours of interviews that Kelly did with him (as a hedge against what he expected would be her selective editing of his comments to make him look bad). Jones posted audio of two of his and Kelly’s conversations and promised to make audio of the complete unedited interview available later. All of this quickly resulted in a firestorm of criticism – not so much of Jones but of Kelly!