Megyn Kelly’s struggle moving from Fox News to a morning show on NBC has been well-documented, as has her subsequent lack of personality. What made Kelly so divisive (and terrifying) at Fox has changed: In her new position, she is utterly palatable and utterly bland.
To fill the void, Fox has introduced a new controversy to its lineup in the form of Laura Ingraham, one of the staunchest Trump supporters to appear on the network. What’s worse than even Kelly’s past indiscretions is Ingraham’s slated time slot: 10 p.m., the most coveted time on television. 10 p.m. gathers the most viewers each night, and whoever hosts that hour of news has the most potential to incite their audience.
Fox’s conservative slant has always been obvious, but its commitment to affording what is arguably the most important slot to such a potentially harmful host is mortifying. Ingraham isn’t just another conservative. She isn’t another Megyn Kelly. Ingraham is a new host whose fans cheered “Build the Wall!” after she denounced Senator Jeff Flake for criticizing the President. She is, as The New York Times puts it, “an ardent nationalist, a Trump confidante, and a foe of open borders.”
Ingraham has a long history of troubling behavior in the media. At Dartmouth, she wrote for the school’s Review, and once assigned a reporter to a meeting of Dartmouth’s gay student alliance. That reporter named students in attendance in an era when homosexuality was not universally accepted. The Review published the piece with names intact. The damage possibly inflicted by this decision could have been severe.
Ingraham later apologized — and everyone makes mistakes — but from a student journalist’s perspective, this history is objectively frightening.
During her time as a commentator for MSNBC, Ingraham’s on-air comments garnered outrage from viewers. On one television appearance she said, “No one wants to see fat people on the cover of magazines in swimsuits.” She has worked with Steve Bannon for Breitbart. She describes the coasts of America as “parentheses,” seeming to pledge focus on middle America, “the country.”
Most importantly, Ingraham told The Times that a Megyn Kelly-esque softening will not be happening on her watch. Departure to a daytime show on NBC can be seen as a personal defeat for Kelly. In her new role, she seems compressed and stiff, weak without the strength-of-self a spot at Fox allows.
Ingraham will not be watered down.
“No,” she said in an interview with The Times. “I won’t be doing that.”
Ingraham’s appointment is scary. It’s scary because I know how much the media can influence public opinion. It’s scary because what we consume has an immeasurable power over how we think about other people. It’s scary because over the summer, Fox took the primetime ratings lead from MSNBC. The network no doubt hopes to keep this lead with Ingraham’s introduction. Her commentary will probably cause a firestorm of public opinion, creating more views.
According to Forbes, Fox officially beat MSNBC on Wednesday, July 26. That night 2.59 million people watched primetime (8–11 p.m.) Fox programs, while only 2.40 million tuned into MSNBC. Crucially, Fox also beat its competitor in the 25 to 54-year-old viewer demographic.
A demographic of 2.59 million people might not seem like a lot compared to the 10 plus million viewers some of the most popular television shows garner every week. That would actually be a terrible rating for primetime spots on other channels. But for Fox, those 2.59 million viewers represent victory.
The media influences all of us, whether public opinion is stirred by a controversial article in The News-Letter or by a flagrant Fox News host. We’ve become very aware of the power of media, especially on this campus, especially during and after the last election cycle. Laura Ingraham’s appointment to Fox’s most coveted spot is a metaphor for how acutely aware news networks are of their power too.
How do we fight back against gigantic media institutions? I would say don’t watch Fox News, but I doubt the majority of us on this campus will be tuning into Ingraham in the first place. The fight boils down to creating our own continued awareness, not just of the power of media but how it influences how we view others. This doesn’t just apply to Fox and Ingraham. Every media outlet has the power to persuade for good or bad.
Consume your preferred news, but stay vigilant. There is more than one Laura Ingraham out there who will soon be, or is currently, using their influence to inspire potentially harmful sentiment in others. Be aware of what you’re taking in and how that may confirm or distort your own biases. This might seem like common sense — we’re all educated and savvy news consumers — but being an informed consumer is more important now than ever.
Jacqui Neber is a senior Writing Seminars major from Northport, N.Y. She is the Opinions Editor.