Fox's Megyn Kelly attempted to justify her insistence that Santa Claus was a white man, accusing critics of blowing her remarks out of proportion and targeting the network.
Kelly sparked widespread outrage this week when she insisted to "kids watching at home" that, like Jesus, Santa Claus is a white man. Her remarks came during a discussion on The Kelly File about a post by Slate's Aisha Harris, which detailed the alienation Harris felt as a child reconciling the ubiquitous images of a white Santa with the black Santa she experienced in her own neighborhood.
On December 13, Kelly defended her 'white Santa' comments as a "tongue-in-cheek message" for kids, which she argued was justified because she was merely acknowledging that "we continually see Saint Nick as a white man in modern day America." She also blamed critics of Fox News for ginning up the controversy by race-baiting and assuming "the worst in people":
KELLY: This would be funny if it were not so telling about our society, in particular the knee-jerk instinct by so many to race-bait and to assume the worst in people, especially people employed by the very powerful Fox News Channel.
I acknowledged -- as Harris did -- that the most commonly depicted image of Santa does in fact have white skin. By the way I also did say Jesus was white. As I learned in the last two days, that is far from settled. For me, the fact that an offhand jest I made during a segment about whether Santa should be replaced by a penguin has now become a national firestorm says two things. Race is still an incredibly volatile issue in this country, and Fox News, and yours truly are big targets for many people.
Later in the program, Kelly hosted political analyst Zerlina Maxwell to discuss the 'white Santa' controversy. Maxwell explained that her family, like Harris', had a black Santa in their household when she was young. Rather than attempting to identify with Maxwell, Kelly responded that many Fox viewers took issue with the suggestion that a white Santa could alienate black children, asking, "Why is white skin alienating? And why is that not racist?":
On the December 12 edition of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, Jon Stewart asked who Fox News host Megyn Kelly was talking to when she declared that Santa Claus is white. From The Daily Show:
From the December 12 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes:
Loading the player reg...
If only Santa Claus were a homeless child.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly sparked outrage this week after insisting that Santa and Jesus were white:
KELLY: By the way, for the kids at home, Santa just is white but this person is arguing that maybe we should also have a black Santa. Santa is what he is and we are debating this because someone wrote about it.
Those controversial comments came in reference to a thought-provoking post penned by Slate columnist Aisha Harris that appeared under the headline "Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore." Harris' piece is worth reading.
In short, she explains the confusion she faced as a child reconciling the ubiquitous images of a white Santa Claus with the one she experienced in her own neighborhood, where Santa Claus was black. It's a compelling take on the way media images and iconic cultural touchstones can marginalize:
I remember feeling slightly ashamed that our black Santa wasn't the "real thing." Because when you're a kid and you're inundated with the imagery of a pale seasonal visitor--and you notice that even some black families decorate their houses with white Santas--you're likely to accept the consensus view, despite your parents' noble intentions.
In an increasingly pluralistic society, Harris asks, shouldn't our seasonal icon be more representative of society?
It's worth asking why it is so important to Megyn Kelly that her audience (and the children she imagines are watching The Kelly File) maintain their conceptualization of Santa Claus as a white man. It's not as if Harris concluded that Santa should be a black woman. She proposed replacing Santa with a penguin.
Kelly helped cut her teeth at Fox as a member of Bill O'Reilly's culture warriors. In that context, her comments help explain the culture she is helping to defend: her own.
At the very least, Kelly's reaction to a non-white Santa demonstrates a troubling lack of empathy, but it is an empathy deficit that is becoming a pattern with Kelly, who went to great pains to portray herself as a non-ideological, serious reporter when she took over a primetime show.
Kelly has received some credit for speaking "truth to power" inside the Fox News bubble, in part getting accolades for aggressively challenging two of her male colleagues after they criticized female breadwinners as symptomatic of what is wrong with America in the 21st century. And there is no doubt that Kelly deserved credit for using her position of power to reject misogyny.
But her record of using that position of power to defend non-majority populations is sketchy when it comes to experiences outside her own.
After Kelly pushed back on one of her guests on Fox for referring to maternity leave as "a racket," Jon Stewart skewered her for having previously dismissed society's interest in making sure that workers have a basic level of benefits. Stewart demonstrated that Kelly's position on the danger of entitlements being "baked in the cake" was at odds with her newfound defense of workers being entitled to maternity leave.
In other words, the empathy deficit remained. It's just that Kelly's own culture now included maternity leave.
Kelly's warfare on behalf of her own culture taps into broader power dynamics that are at play throughout the media. As Media Matters has documented, broadcast and cable news is disproportionately the home of white men. And particularly in the arena of nightly television news, it is the dominion of highly paid elites who have the ability to set the agenda.
So it's important to look at the stories that don't get covered.
Megyn Kelly's rejection of a non-white Santa was one of 13 references to Santa Claus on major cable or broadcast news programs that night, according to Nexis. And the reasoning behind her discussion, Kelly explained on air, was that "somebody wrote about it."
The same justification could have been given for a discussion about homeless children. Yet by contrast, there were three references to homelessness that night. One of those came from a Fox host complaining that a Duck Dynasty star had been mistaken for a homeless person at a Caribbean hotel.
None of those segments told the story of Dasani, an adolescent homeless girl who formed the center of "Invisible Child," a New York Times expose by Andrea Elliot on homelessness in New York City running this week. According to Nexis, Dasani's story was the focus of only a single segment during evening and primetime news this week.
Wall Street Journal editor James Taranto is blaming "the war on men" supposedly waged by "Barack Obama's America" for the school suspension of a six-year-old Colorado boy for sexual harassment.
First-grader Hunter Yelton made national news this week following his suspension from elementary school for sexual harassment after he kissed a female classmate on the hand. While the nation debated the appropriateness of the punishment, Taranto espoused a new theory in a December 11 piece for The Wall Street Journal: Yelton is the "littlest casualty in the war on men."
"In Barack Obama's America, even a small boy can become a sexual suspect," Taranto wrote, claiming the boy's school was "following orders from Washington" when it issued the suspension. As evidence, he cited an April 2011 letter from then-Assistant Secretary of Education, Russlynn Ali, which reminded schools, colleges, and universities receiving federal funds of their obligation under Title IX to respond to allegations of sexual violence and sexual harassment at their facilities.
Taranto decried these sexual harassment regulations as unfairly policing men, going so far as to suggest that sexual harassment is normal male behavior that has become stigmatized (quote marks are his own):
As amusing as the story of Hunter Yelton is, however, it is an example of a dire and widespread problem. "Sexual harassment" rules are ostensibly sex-neutral, but in practice they are used primarily to police male behavior. Feminists like Hanna Rosin note with triumph that girls and women do better in school than their male counterparts. One reason is that normal female behavior is seldom stigmatized or punished in the name of "civil rights."
And while college "justice" is often downright oppressive, the excesses of contemporary feminism know no age limits. As the story of Hunter Yelton demonstrates, the war on men is also a war on little boys.
Taranto's theory quickly made it to Fox News, where The Kelly File devoted an entire segment to speculating whether the Obama administration shares blame in the child's suspension. In response to host Megyn Kelly's question, "does the administration have a hand in this," conservative radio host Dana Loesch repeated Taranto's argument, claiming regulating sexual harassment "polices male behavior, it's the persecution of a guy."
From the December 11 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
Loading the player reg...
Right-wing media launched a series of sexist attacks on Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt after she took a photo with President Obama during the Nelson Mandela memorial service, calling her "Denmark Babe," "Danish Pastry," and referring to her as a sexual object.
Fox News is actively promoting what it claims are "shocking" details about newly hired immigration enforcement attorneys at the Department of Homeland Security, asserting that the Obama administration is "stacking" the agency with "pro-open borders amnesty attorneys," because the lawyers either previously worked in immigration law or for immigrants' rights organizations.
Fox News hosted discredited former Justice Department attorney J. Christian Adams twice in two days to attack the Obama administration over its recent DHS hires, attacks which were also highlighted on the Fox Nation website. Adams, who is best known as the fabulist behind the New Black Panther Party pseudoscandal, accused the Obama administration in a piece for the conservative PJ Media of improperly hiring these attorneys, claiming that the hires "undermine confidence that the federal government will vigorously enforce federal laws, notwithstanding any congressional 'mandates' to do so." Adams listed all the attorneys hired, along with information about their employment history or immigration background.
Among the work experience Adams cited were stints with immigrants' rights organizations like the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the Advancement Project, the National Immigration Law Center, and the American Immigration Council. He also highlighted the work experience of an attorney who volunteered for Planned Parenthood, and those of two others who studied Arabic in Africa while in college.
On Fox & Friends, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck teased an interview with Adams by claiming that "a shocking new report" shows that "President Obama [is] stacking his immigration enforcement office with pro-open borders amnesty attorneys." She added: "Are illegal immigrants getting a free pass thanks to the government?"
During the segment, co-host Steve Doocy said: "Even if the Obama Administration can't officially change immigration policy, these lawyers can help illegal immigrants stay in the country regardless of the law." He added: "The Obama administration, they're brilliant in getting around the rules." Adams then repeated his allegations, including that the lawyers are "all on the far left, open borders side of the equation."
Adams singled out two lawyers he claimed supported his points that they would follow an ideological agenda: Jennifer Lee and Maura Ooi.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly hosted J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department attorney who she identified as a "well-known Washington whistleblower." Adams is best known as the fabulist behind the New Black Panthers Party pseudoscandal, which Kelly extensively promoted.
Kelly presents herself in interviews as politically unbiased. Some media observers also push that claim, often pointing to her Election Night rebuttal to Karl Rove's objections to Fox News calling Ohio for President Obama or her rebukes of Erick Erickson and Lou Dobbs for their comments on women in the workplace. But Kelly is also a champion of anti-Obama scandalmongering, notably her effort to turn the New Black Panthers Party story into a damaging attack on President Obama.
In 2010, Adams accused the Obama administration of racially-charged "corruption" for allegedly refusing to protect white voters from intimidation at the hands of minorities in the New Black Panthers Party voter intimidation case. Adams was a long-time Republican political operative who was reportedly hired as part of the Bush administration's illegally politicized hiring of conservative Justice Department lawyers. An investigation by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility ultimately cleared DOJ officials in 2011 of any wrongdoing or misconduct in the case.
Kelly was responsible for launching Adams' claims into the national debate, giving him his first cable news interview in July 2010 and providing dozens of segments and hours of coverage to the story in the subsequent weeks.
Because Adams' story did not stand up to the facts, it was quickly rejected by the Republican vice chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, Fox contributors, and other media figures. Kelly in particular was criticized as being "obsessed" and conducting a "minstrel show"; her own colleague Kirsten Powers accused Kelly of "doing the scary black man thing" and promoting the claims of "a conservative activist posing as a whistleblower."
But three years later, Kelly welcomed Adams to her December 7 program, introducing him as a "well-known Washington whistleblower."
Since the show's debut on October 7 and through November 29, Fox News' The Kelly File has hosted conservatives significantly more often than progressives and has surpassed even Fox's Hannity in its divide between guests on the left and right.
Fox host Megyn Kelly repeated two long-debunked myths regarding the Obama administration's response to the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, ignoring congressional testimony, military experts, and even photographic evidence in order to claim "we still don't have any answers" about military aid and President Obama's whereabouts on the night of the attacks.
On the December 3 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File, Kelly hosted Republican Rep. Devin Nunes (CA) to discuss this week's closed-door congressional testimony from two CIA contractors present in Benghazi during the attacks on September 11, 2012. During the interview, Nunes claimed that there are still unanswered questions about the administration's response to the attacks, asking, "What were they doing? How come nobody came to help?" Kelly did not push Nunes on his claim, instead parroting it: "Your point is, they didn't dispatch any help, even when it was unclear whether the attack had ended or not. What would be the delay when they didn't know it was over?"
Kelly later asked if the congressional hearings had "been able to shed light ... about what the president was doing at the moment of the attack and on the night in question," to which Nunes said no. She concluded, "So we still don't have any answers."
From the December 2 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
Loading the player reg...
In response to Senate Democrats invoking the so-called "nuclear option," right-wing media advanced a number of myths not only about filibuster reform, but about the qualifications of President Obama's nominees who have languished in the confirmation process. What right-wing media have ignored is that Democrats used the "nuclear option" only after unprecedented GOP obstruction prevented Obama's judicial and executive nominees from receiving an up-or-down vote.
From the November 25 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
Loading the player reg...
Despite the GOP's strategy of obstructionism throughout the Affordable Care Act's (ACA, commonly known as Obamacare) implementation, Fox News pundits claimed Republicans have done nothing to contribute to ACA rollout problems.