Fox News has announced that when dayside anchor Megyn Kelly returns from her upcoming maternity leave, she will be moving to the network's primetime lineup.
Fox's evening block is the most stable in cable news, with no new hosts since 2003, and Fox did not announce which host Kelly would be replacing. In May, The New York Times reported that Greta Van Susteren might move out of her 10 p.m. timeslot and be replaced by Kelly, and quoted Van Susteren's husband saying that she would be willing to move to a program earlier in the day.
Kelly has received praise -- including from Media Matters -- for the rare moments when she broke through Fox's conservative noise machine, particularly on women's rights issues. Her sharp questioning of Fox personalities Lou Dobbs and Erick Erickson over their sexist criticism of the finding that a record number of women are becoming their families' primary breadwinner and her confrontation with radio host Mike Gallagher over his claim that her maternity leave was "a racket" were riveting television that promoted progressive values.
But the balance of Kelly's tenure at Fox, during which she has anchored the 1 p.m. program America Live as well as the network's 2012 convention and election night coverage, has been marked by a steady drumbeat of conspiratorial scandalmongering.
In a 2008 profile, Howard Kurtz, who will soon join Kelly at Fox News, wrote that Kelly tends to show "hints of her political outlook" on the air, and quoted Fox's Brit Hume saying that Kelly "seemed to get what we've talked about with 'fair and balanced news' " and that she "came in believing there was a left bias in the news." She will bring that worldview to primetime.
Notably, the report of Kelly's promotion comes just over three years to the day after she launched Fox News' over-the-top coverage of the New Black Panther Party pseudoscandal.
Kelly was the driving force behind Fox News' heavy promotion of the false conspiracy that the Obama administration, due to racial and political motivations, had refused to protect white voters from intimidation at the hands of minorities. She launched the story on June 30, 2010, with a major interview detailing the "explosive new allegations" of right-wing operative and former DOJ lawyer J. Christian Adams. Over the next two weeks she devoted 45 segments to the story, totaling more than 3.5 hours of coverage.
Kelly's take on the story was often factually inaccurate and never terribly credible, and was quickly dismantled by the Republican vice chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, Fox contributors, and other media figures. Fox News and Kelly in particular came under fire for the coverage, which was critiqued as a "minstrel show" and a Kelly "obsess[ion]."
In one memorable interview with Kelly, Fox's Kirsten Powers accused Kelly of "doing the scary black man thing" and noted that Kelly's source was "a conservative activist posing as a whistleblower."
Kelly subsequently devoted one minute and four seconds to the Justice Department's release of the results of an internal investigation clearing DOJ officials of any wrongdoing in the case.
Kelly's Panthers coverage wasn't an aberration. She has done the spadework on Fox's scandal beat, driving a relentless stream of false or conspiratorial coverage on the IRS scandal, the attacks on the Benghazi diplomatic facility (even suggesting that Hillary Clinton was using her concussion as an "excuse" to avoid testifying), investigations into national security leaks, allegedly fraudulent federal jobs reports, and a host of others.
Expect more of that same "political outlook" from Kelly in primetime.