We all owe a debt of gratitude to Megyn Kelly. (Yes, that's the affected way she spells it.) The Fox News personality cleared up something that has been worrisome ever since the myth of the jolly fat man at the North Pole first wafted into the collective consciousness of mankind.
Ms. Kelly, responding to a comment that she evidently hadn't been warned about during the exhaustive application of her make-up, definitively declared Santa Claus to be "white." The statement may eventually find its way to the top of the list in an encyclopedia of dumb things uttered on the Fox News Channel, if Rupert Murdoch ever thinks he can make a couple of bucks by publishing it. I'm sure a disproportionate number of households in the Deep South, along with other homes where the welcome mat for traditional values is always out, breathed a gigantic sigh of relief. It is only fair that, once a year, a fat white guy in a loud suit doles out presents to those who have been good. Why shouldn't he when he benefits so much from their goodness and cooperation all the rest of the year? (Think Roger Ailes.) It isn't a new concept, historically speaking. But another myth, that of the ever-beneficent, antebellum white father suffered a serious fracture with the release of "12 Years a Slave" this year. It would be interesting to hear Fox News' spin on the movie. "It couldn't possibly have been that bad" would probably set the general tone of the critique.
Ms. Kelly told her guest, a black writer for Slate magazine who was probably more appalled than offended, "Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn't mean it has to change." Don't let the Connie Stevens demeanor catch you off-guard. The woman is obviously as tactless as she is clueless.
Typically, Kelly tried to minimize the damage by claiming that the remark was intended as humor. (Maybe the best way to approach Fox commentators is to regard them as third-rate humorists rather than second-rate journalists.) It's difficult to understand where the humor lies in Kelly's smugly delivered remark, but then I never thought Jerry Lewis was very funny either, so take my analysis with a grain of salt.
Kelly characterized the comment as being "tongue-in-cheek" (as opposed to foot-in-mouth). Tongue-in-cheek is a moderately sophisticated ploy that is not at all common on the particular network that she represents because so many of its hard core supporters tend to take even their most transparently ludicrous statements seriously. Mr. Murdoch, after all, isn't in the business to enlighten when undermining has proven to be so much more profitable.
The "tongue-in-cheek" ha-ha excuse is a little difficult to give any credence to when it is combined with the unabashedly nasty "just because it makes you uncomfortable" rejoinder. But Kelly insists that all the flack is merely "the knee-jerk instinct by so many to race-bait and to assume the worst of people, especially the people employed by the very powerful Fox News Channel." You will note the use of the word "powerful" for its invaluable intimidation factor. Fox News has always functioned under the questionable notion that ratings invariably denote rightness.
You have to wonder, however, what Kelly's interpretation of race-baiting is. If race-baiting is something that civilized people do when they are grossly offended by a stupidly racist remark, then she is absolutely right. Ms. Kelly is paid handsomely to promote what is, at its devious little capitalist heart, an organization with an agenda that is so intrinsically opposed to the specter of social progress - so wedded to the status quo - that now they want to incorporate myths and fantasies to bolster their divisive rhetoric.
It says something about the world in America when the most sensible analysis of Fox News blather falls to someone whose program is aired on Comedy Central. Granted, Fox provides a never-ending fountain of material for comedians all over the world, but no one offers it with the kind of underlying seriousness that it really merits as Jon Stewart does on his "Daily Show."
"Who are you talking to?" Stewart asked of Ms. Kelly in absentia. A child "sophisticated enough to be watching a news channel at 10 o'clock at night, yet innocent enough to still believe Santa Claus is real, yet racist enough to be freaked out if he isn't white." It was an academic question to be sure. Mr. Stewart knows very well exactly to whom (and, perhaps more accurately, to what) Ms. Kelly is speaking. The real debt of gratitude that is owed to Megyn Kelly is for her concise and crystalline illustration of exactly who Fox News is talking to. That is why Jon Stewart's evisceration, often tinted with a palpable shade of genuine horror, is so appropriate.
Kelly did concede that Jesus was probably not white. That, I suppose, is what will have to pass as progress on Fox.
Alden Graves is a Banner columnist.