Scott D. Pierce: ‘Santa is white’ controversy means publicity for Fox News

First Published      Last Updated Dec 19 2013 04:20 pm

Megyn Kelly's recent bout of foot-in-mouth disease should at least make all of her detractors glad she's a Fox News host and not a comedian. Although she claims to be quite the humorist.

After proclaiming on air that Santa Claus and Jesus Christ are white, Kelly used the "Just kidding!" defense and attempted to rewrite history. She said her original comments were "tongue in cheek" and that she was just joking.

Doesn't look like that in the clip. She approaches this "issue" with the same attitude she approaches just about everything, proclaiming categorically, "For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white."

If Kelly is attempting humor, she's really bad at it. And she attacked those who didn't get her joke. "Humor is part of what we try to bring to this show, but sometimes that is lost on the humorless," she said.

Perhaps they could flash a "humor alert" graphic onscreen.

She later backed off the "Jesus was a white man, too!" comment, acknowledging there's some debate on that topic.

None of this matters much, except that Kelly's defense against charges that she's a racist amounts to "I'm not a racist, you're a racist. Nyah!" She accused her critics of having "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."

Ah, yes. The Fox News defense. We're the victims. People are bullying us.

It plays well to the Fox News audience, which skews older and, yes, white.

Never mind that Kelly has a tortured history with the topic of race baiting, including an extensive history involving disproved allegations that the Obama administration ordered the Justice Department not to prosecute African-Americans accused of voter intimidation.

It was so bad that Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers took Kelly to task for "doing the 'scary black man' thing."

Kelly made herself a target and then complained when pundits took aim at her. That, a cynic might believe, is her way of provoking headlines and raising her own profile.

It's certainly Bill O'Reilly's way. Perhaps feeling the competition from Kelly — FNC's Next Big Thing — FNC's Current Big Thing jumped in, blaming it all on "the far left," proclaiming that "Miss Kelly was correct" and adding that "any talk of skin color brings out the zealots" bent on destroying Fox News.

"Because they cannot defeat us on the media battlefield, the far left seeks to demonize Fox News as a right-wing propaganda machine and a racist enterprise," he said.

Poor, picked-upon Fox News. Ultra-powerful, ultra-thin-skinned. That plays well to the network's viewers.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.