Megyn Kelly launched her new magazine at NBC Sunday, and the stakes couldn’t have been much higher for either.
Kelly, now among the highest paid personalities on network news (nearly $20 million per year), left Fox News for the network earlier this year, and will most likely secure another role on the morning schedule later this year, in addition to this one.
But first, she had to get through “Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly,” a magazine show which was also inaugurated with a piece by Cynthia McFadden investigation about an addictive drug produced by Insys Therapeutics, and another piece by Harry Smith about elephant poaching in Kenya.
Her lead-off piece was about the second most famous leader on the planet, Vladmir Putin. For her, the results were mixed. For Putin, the result was a slam dunk.
In a wide-ranging interview that led Kelly’s inaugural broadcast, Putin spoke at length and unchallenged — and even appeared to have mastered a skill that American pundits spend years developing, the “pull-out quote,” AKA the memorable soundbite:
“You people are so creative over there,” he quipped. “Good job. Your lives must be boring.”
Then, this one: “Have you all lost your senses over there?”
Good job, indeed. Maybe Putin missed his calling — as a U.S. cable news primetime host.
The best part of Kelly’s inaugural “Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly” began in the opening moments, with Kelly moderating a panel at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Cue to a tight shot of Kelly, who explained that the “normally wonkish” discussion became “heated” when she asked Putin about cyber interference in the U.S. election: “I saw what was happening,” he said, via the translator. “It was a big surprise for me too. What they are saying is just nuts. I never know where people spreading disinformation is coming from.”
The one-on-one followed. Kelly asked the right questions — Russian cyber interference, former U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and so on — and he overwhelmed her with word clouds. “What fingerprints or hoof-prints or horn-prints? What are you talking about? IP addresses? They can be invented, you know? There are a lot of specialists who can even make it so it comes from your home IP address as if your 3-year-old daughter carried out the attack.”
Kelly stared at him, and no followup came, despite an obvious one: What the heck is a “horn-print?”
“I will tell you something you already know,” he prefaced one answer.
His interpreter — who sounded indignant — located an occasional colloquialism, like “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.”
Putin, or his translator, was dismissive of every question: “[American] presidents come and go . . . we know more or less what’s going to happen.”
Kelly soldiered on: “Do you have something damaging on our president?”
Putin volleyed: “Load of nonsense . . . ”
Not once did Kelly interject, not once did she tell him that what he was saying was a load of nonsense.
Bottom line: Rough launch for Megyn Kelly, but score one for Vladimir Putin, and his horn-print.