As chronicled here earlier, Megyn Kelly opened her hour of Today Thursday with a fiery monologue in the wake of the Parkland, FL school shooting.
Kelly was visibly incensed, as she railed against the inaction which has followed each of America’s recent mass-shootings.
“If we don’t get serious, neither will [politicians],” Kelly said — as she made a passionate appeal for change.
That solemn soliloquy, during which a pin drop could seemingly be heard in the studio audience, was followed — a mere 49 minutes later — by this:
The campy segment — in which Megyn Kelly Today went full on game show — was the third of three consecutive segments of Olympic shilling. In all, the final quarter of Kelly’s program was devoted to the latest goings on in PyeongChang.
The first two hours of Today were similarly plagued by Olympic coverage. The show devoted its first 45 minutes to the school shooting. There was a brief recap at the top of the 8:00 a.m. hour. And there was a segment featuring Savannah Guthrie visiting the DMZ — the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea which many regard as one of the most dangerous places on earth.
Aside from that? All Olympics, all the time.
The last hour of Today is exempt from this critique — as it makes no attempt to market itself as a news program. But the first three do wear that label proudly. As such, they failed their viewers by devoting less time to a major news story at the expense of promoting a network property.
Kelly, for her part, seemed more than a bit uncomfortable with the transition to Olympic coverage. As her show switched gears, she discussed the thought process behind talking Olympics.
We talked about ‘Should we do the Olympic moment [of the day, a recurring segment] today? Should we talk about it?’ And we really felt like we needed it. We need some joy.
Hooey. What she needed — more to the point, what NBC needed — was for viewers to be thinking about the Olympics.
The blame for this does not fall on Megyn Kelly, or Savannah Guthrie, or any Today producer. This is an executive-level decision. And it’s about money, just like always.
NBC is the exclusive rights holder to the 2018 Winter Olympics. According to The New York Times, the network paid $963 million for the right to televise the games. A press release last week touted that NBC has sold more than $900 million in advertisements for the nearly three-week long event.
But that money is conditional upon the Olympics hitting a certain ratings target. If they fail to hit that target, the network will likely have to make their sponsors whole by providing them with make-goods — free ads to compensate.
And so, NBC News programs become — more or less — an informercial for the Olympics whenever the Games are on. A vehicle by which to get viewers hooked. This arrangement is troubling even under normal circumstances. It means downplaying sexual misconduct claims against snowboarder Shaun White. It means turning the other way as cities go bankrupt to build Olympic venues. It means giving little attention to the incredibly corrupt International Olympic Committee.
During a major news event, the idea of NBC News as Olympic billboard becomes infinitely more problematic. The network’s duty to the nation demands that they put public interest ahead of profits. On Thursday, NBC owed its viewers more coverage of the Parkland school shooting, even if that meant less coverage of its prized Olympics.
“We all know what is about to happen right now, don’t we?” Kelly said at one point in her Today monologue. “We’re gonna say how sorry, and shocked we are. And then we’re gonna move on, without doing anything. And then we’re gonna say how sorry, and shocked, and sad we are at the next one. And the one after that.”
Following those comments, Megyn Kelly spent the next 40 minutes of her Thursday program telling viewers how sorry, shocked, and sad she was.
And then she moved on.
[image via screengrab, videos via NBC]
Joe DePaolo is a Senior Editor for Mediaite. Follow him on Twitter @joe_depaolo.