Ethics Observations On The Megyn Kelly “Blackface” Fiasco

You know, one could make a strong argument that the misadventures of a richly compensated  morning TV host is not worth thinking about, arguing about, or even paying attention to. The problem is that in trivial events vital enlightenment often reside. We ignore the Megyn Kelly mess at great risk. There are many ethics lessons there.

The Megyn Kelly fiasco started long before her self-immolation over the now-radioactive topic of Halloween costumes, but let’s begin there. In case you missed it (that is, you have a life), Kelly was using her special segment of the “Today Show” to moderate a round-table discussion of how, as she put it,  “the costume police are cracking down” on Halloween costumes. The former Fox News host and Donald Trump irritant decided to emulate the President and blunder into a political correctness minefield.

“What is racist?” she mused. “You do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface on Halloween, or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid, that was O.K., as long as you were dressing up as a character.” Then she talked about the travails of Luann de Lesseps, a member of the cast of the Bravo reality show “The Real Housewives of New York,” who was criticized for dressing up as Diana Ross, complete with skin-tone.  Megyn found the criticism  passing strange.

By the end of the week, Kelly had issued a tearful on-air apology and others on social media. She had been condemned by “Today” colleagues and NBC News chairman Andrew Lack, went even further at a midday staff meeting, saying,“There is no other way to put this, but I condemn those remarks.There is no place on our air or in this workplace for them.”

Then NBC announced that “Megyn Kelly Today” was cancelled, and so was Kelly’s 19 million dollar a year employment, subject to the result of negotiations between her lawyers and NBC’s.


  • Should Kelly have been fired for her statements? Let’s begin this way: she never should have been hired, and her eventually firing was inevitable. NBC is a hard-left partisan culture, and Kelly is an outspoken conservative iconoclast. She didn’t fit in with the insular sensibilities of the staff and management; her instincts and attitudes were anathema to everything NBC projects and has become. If the idea was to broaden “Today’s” audience and diversify its one-note culture by adding a single conservative voice, the idea was ignorant. Either the NBC culture was going to change Kelly, or at least her public persona, rendering he addition pointless, or she was going to be in a constant adversary stance within the network.

Should she have been fired for her statements about Halloween costumes alone? Of course not. And I doubt that this was anything but an excuse to jettison her while reaping the benefits of progressive virtue-signaling to its core audience.

  • Kelly’s opinion was not “racist” by any definition, nor did it indicate that she hold racist view. Lack’s words were wildly excessive. Kelly’s statement, if anything, indicates a desire to get past racial “gotcha’s” and taboos, which in a society not obsessed with race-grievances should be possible and desirable. This was a round-table discussion, and she uttered a provocative point of view. The statement wasn’t that blacks should be mocked by whites using minstrel show-style blackface, but that an African American should be able to dress up as a white character—requiring make-up, and a white (or Asian-American)  person should be able to costume themselves as black character or historical figure, with make-up if necessary. It’s an opinion that should be able to to be stated to open up a meaningful discussion covering many topics: sensitivity, historical context, theater, the concept of Halloween, double standards, and more. Lack’s response, echoing the majority, is “Shut up! How dare you challenge political correctness cant and lazy knee-jerk attitudes?

I will argue Kelly’s basic point with anyone, and have, right here, from a theatrical perspective. Should a white actor be able to play Othello. requiring dark make-up? Absolutely, and that’s not “blackface.” Should any American child, white or black, be able to portray a black U.S. President? Again, absolutely. In the current oppressive, bullying and hypersensitive environment, can a white child do this safely and without fear of reprisals?

That’s a different question.

  • Kelly’s manner of raising these issues, however, was ham-handed, inarticulate and destructive. It is an important,  nuanced and complex issue that deserves careful dissection and critical thought, especially because most people just shift into emotional responses and tune out anyway. If a TV host is going to raise such an issue, she has an obligation to do it in a way that opens minds and encourages enlightened discourse. That requires a lot better than, “Gee, when I was a kid, we dressed up as Aunt Jemima and Super Fly and nobody seemed to mind!”  I’ve moderated academic discussions on this topic, and it’s difficult. Kelly’s framing and presentation was incompetent, and she obviously didn’t do the necessary background research.

She deserved to be fired for that.

  • All parties are at fault here, and the end result takes one more bite out of freedom of thought, opinion and expression. For Kelly’s blandly unsophisticated and poorly thought-out remarks to be characterized as racist and used to justify her firing based on their “offensive” content chills speech, which is something news networks should not be a part of.

Kelly was astoundingly naive to not know that she, of all people, was in peril if she approached this particular cultural third rail, that activists would pounce and seek her hide to reinforce their own power, and that nobody on the Left—only the Right, and we all know they’re racists—would have the integrity to defend her. (Well, maybe Bill Maher. I haven’t checked, and won’t.)

  • Worse was her groveling apologies to keep her job. I am about to modify my official position that Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harman in “NCIS”) and Nathan Brittles (the Duke in “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon”) are ethically off base when they say, “Never apologize, it’s a sign of weakness.” Apologizing for a controversial but legitimate and defensible statement or opinion in the face of threats, bullying and intimidation is a sign of weakness. If you are not capable of defending  own opinions and taking the heat, then you shouldn’t be making  your opinions public.

At this point I have little sympathy or respect for Kelly. She appears to lack integrity, common sense, and perspective, and isn’t as smart as I once thought she was.


Sources: New York Times 12, 3

15 thoughts on “Ethics Observations On The Megyn Kelly “Blackface” Fiasco

  1. Unless her goal was to be unfairly fired. No great secret that she and NBC have been at loggerheads since she was hired. I wouldn’t have expected the groveling apology, though, if that were the case.

          • Deliberate misspelling, Valkygrrl?

            Freud never lost his footing, I hear. 😉

            That’s interesting. I looked up and watched that video on YouTube. But what is interesting about the claim? First, the ‘Santa’ that is known all through Europe is an historical composite, but is beyond doubt both white and European.

            The problem when a culture, such as America, is engineered to become a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society is that battles over important symbols are inevitable. It is simply a logical inevitability during and after the Civil Rights crisis that a white Santa would become problematic. And, logically, in some black families Santa is given a black visage. The more historical awareness that Blacks gained, the more they found their circumstance one of alienation. To surmount alienation calls forth a need and a desire to transform symbols. To take them in hand and remold them. Just a fact.

            Her more problematic statement is that Jesus is white. She says she is referring to the historical Jesus, but in truth she is referring to the cultural and the religious-cultural image of Jesus. That of the Christian era, 500-1800 more or less. Indeed, that Jesus is white, and in all religious art — the most common, the most known and important of European religious art — the figure of Jesus and most of the disciples are portrayed as Europeans. That Jesus is definitely white and European.

            What is interesting is to consider Galilee:

            Galilee at the time of Jesus had a unique power structure. Now might be a good time to do a little review of the influence of Greek and Roman culture in this region. Alexander the Great conquered Judea about 360 years before Jesus began his ministry. It is hard to over-state the impact that the Greek culture — or Hellenism — had on the places that Alexander conquered. The Greeks brought their language and radically different ideas of religion, architecture, government, philosophy, religion, and morality.

            The Jews largely tried to live apart from the Hellenists. They were viewed as outsiders and corrupt. But the Romans were an occupying force, so you couldn’t avoid them all together. And certain cities were virtually all Hellenists, complete with pagan structures, statues and spas. It was scandalous for a Jew to even be there. The Galilee region had a large Jewish population, mixed with communities that were quite obviously dominated by Hellenistic culture.

            Houston Chamberlain — with significant erudition and a great deal of stubborn wilfulness! — attempted to construct a non-Jewish and an Hellenic Jesus. It is not a complete far-cry since ‘nothing good ever comes from Nazareth’ and there were such strong Greek influences there. It is not surpriising therefor that the gospel Jesus quickly shows himself not very friendly to the Jewish structures. For Chamberlain’s larger project it would have been necessary for Jesus not to have been specifically Semitic. Even now, for many on the Traditional Right Christianity is problematic because it is, in so many ways, constructed over Judaism.

            See Howard Bloom’s ‘six revisionary ratios’, one being:

            Clinamen (‘Swerve’) – Howard Bloom defines this as “poetic misreading or misprision proper”. The poet makes a swerve away from the precursor in the form of a “corrective movement”. This swerve suggests that the precursor “went accurately up to a certain point”, but should have swerved in the direction that the new poem moves. Bloom took the word clinamen from Lucretius, who refers to swerves of atoms that make change possible.

            But turning back to the racial struggles and the definition-struggles and the power struggles going on in America (what the heck else could all this be about?), the important thing to remark is that in the engineered Postwar America it became inevitable to battle over symbols, their content, the look and the color of things, their relevance and irrelevance. This is what is really going on here.

            It is also true that Jews have problems with any strong manifestation of Christian culture and, it has been observed, prefer a weakened Christianity. And some say that they work to undermine Christian traditions and institutions. (E Michael Jones is such a one). Clearly, there has always been struggles between these groups culturally and religiously, and for obvious reasons! It is not surprising then that Jews have often gotten behind the ‘get the prayer out of school’ movement. Too, any traditional Jew can have nothing to do with Christmas or Santa Claus, also for obvious reasons.

            So, all these problems and issues more or less simmer under the surface. They are there even if people do not want to talk about them. As I have been saying for a few years now: they are now all coming to the surface. Best to gain understanding about why this is happening.

          • I am going to take this just a bit further. It will be interesting . . .

            Erroneous? Remember her Satana Claus is white schtick?

            OK, a ‘Santa Claus schtick’ (and as it actually happened a Jesus schtick).

            But let us consider am Anti-White Schtick. See here: Tim Wise’s ‘The Last Gasp of Aging White Power: But Time is Not on Your Side’.

            Read it. Meditate on what it says. Understand what it means.

            We have to see — and look squarely at — the contexts of the present.

  2. FYI. Gibbs modified or clarified his apology stance in one episode by creating rule 51. “Sometimes you are wrong”. This adjustment came after realizing he was wrong and needed to aplogize.

    An apology predicated on a demand indicates weakness of the person. An apology predicated on one’s own understanding their act or decision was wrong is a sign of strength in the person.

    • Yes, I used to be far quicker to apologize about having a different opinion on some topic. If someone can convince me with reason and example, I would hope they don’t feel the need to make me grovel when I’ve changed my view. (That was my arc for my opinion on global warming) Jumping on me with emotional reactions and manipulation/bullying is more likely to provoke me to disengage or give an insincere non-apology. They don’t want reason, and they won’t allow that my opinion has any right to exist. Sometimes, life is too short for some battles. I regret that, but I recently had an ulcer warning and I have better things to do.

  3. To Whom It May Concern:

    Kelly’s manner of raising these issues, however, was ham-handed, inarticulate and destructive. It is an important, nuanced and complex issue that deserves careful dissection and critical thought, especially because most people just shift into emotional responses and tune out anyway. If a TV host is going to raise such an issue, she has an obligation to do it in a way that opens minds and encourages enlightened discourse. That requires a lot better than, “Gee, when I was a kid, we dressed up as Aunt Jemima and Super Fly and nobody seemed to mind!” I’ve moderated academic discussions on this topic, and it’s difficult. Kelly’s framing and presentation was incompetent, and she obviously didn’t do the necessary background research.

    To quote Humble Talent: I am going to buck a little against some of this.

    At first I thought How reasonable that sounds — and it is a reasonable statement, and one that any person with any position in present society had better understand, and indeed must understand. That is, if one is going to have a *responsible* conversation about any of the particularly hot topics, one must do it a) within acceptable and predefined terms, the terms that are *allowed*, and b) there for one can not ever say anything, really, that deviates from that. And if you do deviate, you will be destroyed.

    I can define a way that the ‘important, nuanced and complex’ topic can be talked about, should be talked about, that would get me *lynched* in America today. For example if I were to begin from the starting point that America, over the next 50 years, needs to reengineer itself (back) into a white culture where whites dominate and would never have to go on TeeVee to sob and beg forgiveness.

    So, I start from the position that the whole spectacle is an Absurd Performance. And by ‘spectacle’ I mean that of some people, or a group, that has the power to force her down to the ground; to grind her into the ground as a National Spectacle. In the society that I envision as possible no upstanding citizen would give over that power to some other.

    Yes, it is true that careful dissection and critical thought is good and necessary, but then so is the critical thought that would examine how (in the heck!) this bizarre system has been created and whites have to get down on their hands and knees and beg to some angry minorities.

    The conversation that I would desire to open — on TeeVee, in the Universities, on the Public Square, everywhere– is how white culture can be restored and, at the same time, the consequences of the absurd attempt to create a multi-ethnic and multicultural society.

    Perhaps Kelly will decide, after she is dragged through the broken glass of her shame, is to wake up and see where the *present* is going and what is in store for her, her country, and her progeny. It would be great to see her recant. She could get some self-esteem lessons from Ann Coulter!

    Yours in abject wickedness,

    Alizia Tyler

  4. (Disclosure: I have never liked Kelly: my CINO* radar has always pinged with her)

    Kelly chose to play in a rigged game. If she did not know her peril, than she got what she deserved.

    If she DID go into this job with her eyes open, she really really overestimated her skill at the game. Shades of ‘bomber blew himself up’ here. She is like the snake handler who died after years of experience, but got careless and died for it.

    For if this is true, she made one of the classic blunders, only a little less well known the ‘getting involved in a land war in Asia:’ not knowing her opponents. Progressives are turning on each other: it is entirely possible she was hired so they could fire her for points later. (Money is no object to radical progressives: Hollywood continues to make failed movies no one watches except progressive radicals, who are too few to pay the bills.) She was someone they could despise and hurt, which is a large part of what motivates progressives these days.

    *Conservative In Name Only

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