Editor's note: The following op-ed is excerpted from Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers' new book, "The Silencing: How the Left Is Killing Free Speech" (Regnery, May 2015).
One of the worst aspects of the illiberal left is its heinous sexism against women with whom they disagree.
Megyn Kelly, a former lawyer, is a serious and highly successful television journalist. When her contract was up for renewal in 2013, the New York Times reported that both CNN and NBC wanted to hire her away from Fox, a strange thing to desire if Fox News is not a “legitimate” news outlet.
But to the illiberal left, Megyn Kelly is not a reporter or a commentator or a woman to be respected for her achievements. She is a Fox “babe” to be characterized by her looks.
To the illiberal left, Megyn Kelly is not a reporter or a commentator or a woman to be respected for her achievements. She is a Fox “babe” to be characterized by her looks.
The Huffington Post linked to a New York Times story about Kelly adding the headline, “Megyn Kelly, ‘Attractive-Looking Blond’ Anchorwoman, Leads the Pack at Fox News,” twisting a flattering quote from the story to make it seem as if the only positive attribute she possessed were her looks.
Over at the feminist website Jezebel, where they are all about being “pro-woman,” one writer said she liked Kelly the way she did “Ursula from the Little Mermaid,” adding that she “sort of” loved her despite Kelly being “largely a horrible, terrible person with many horrible, stupid thoughts and opinions.” This was the same “feminist” site that had previously described the prime-time host and former corporate litigator as a “Fox Newsbot.”
It is also a website that the illiberal left considers a “legitimate” news source, as there were no complaints when MSNBC hired former Salon.com columnist Irin Carmon, who also happened to be a former blogger for Jezebel, to be a national reporter to cover politics and women’s issues.
The outspoken liberal feminist and supporter of Democrats has a fellowship at Yale University on Reproductive Justice. (Imagine if Fox News hired a conservative “pro-life” blogger and gave her the title of national reporter and had her covering women’s issues.)
The website Capital New York ran a January 2015 profile on Carmon, in which they asked her, “Was it a tough adjustment going from opinionated blogging with a strong voice to reporting for cable news?” Carmon explained that, “Well, we get to do some opinionating and strong voice-ing on the air around here . . . but I’ve always seen myself as a reporter first. . . .”
At Fox News there is a sharp distinction between commentators and opinion hosts and reporters. In the media corners of the illiberal left, not so much.
Carmon explained that, “there’s so much more space now for reporting with a passionate point of view, which is where I see my own work, than there was even a few years ago when I was starting out.”
If Carmon is an example of a woman the illiberal left considers a legitimate journalist, Megyn Kelly is someone the illiberal left tries to delegitimize through the oldest sexist trick in the book—objectifying her as a woman. In 2010, the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait posted a screenshot of Kelly seemingly in mid-sentence under the headline, “The Quintessential Fox News Image.” He wrote: “Everything you need to know about Fox News is captured in this screenshot: the American flags, the fearmongering image in the upper-right corner, the blond anchor with a facial expression that somehow combines sneering with absolute terror.” Kelly wasn’t sneering or looking frightened, though she is blonde and is on Fox which to the illiberal left means she’s a nameless “blond anchor” and candidate for being objectified and dehumanized.
Liberal journalist Lee Siegel wrote for Men’s Journal explaining to liberal men what they were missing about “the blondes of Fox News.” He explained how fun it was to watch them, as “Fox women are studies in passive-aggressive revolt against their ideological masters.” These “masters” are white men who the “Fox women” secretly believe are “fools.” His article was headlined, “The Right, Hot, and Bothered Blondes of Fox News: One man’s guilty obsession with Megyn Kelly and the blondes of Fox News.” He explained his liberal brethren needed to appreciate that, “Most blonde anchors on Fox are dyed blondes,” and a woman who dyes her hair blonde has “on some level, subordinated her will to male desire.” But there’s more. The Fox News blonde “is also dangerous. She has another identity concealed by the one she submissively shares with you. Lurking within every Fox blonde is a CNN brunette.” He closed with, “Fox blondes hold out the promise of rational intelligence and sexual gratification—two precious and tragically incompatible human qualities. Of all the shameless lies Fox tells, that beautiful illusion may be the most potent.”
VH1.com ran a July feature, “Meet the Blondes of Fox News” featuring a picture of Megyn Kelly, Dana Perino, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck along with a photo gallery of a few of Fox’s female journalists. “If you thought Fox News Channel was just a boys club, think again,” VH1 exclaimed. (Who ever thought that?) They went on to explain that yes, Fox hires women, “but they’re not necessarily adding sensibility to Fox News’ reporting. We’re all for strong women in the newsroom, but we’re not sure if Fox News’ blondes fit that bill.” In particular, they explained that “Fox News’ blonde bombshells” such as Megyn Kelly “can’t be taken seriously” and included Greta Van Susteren, who holds a law degree from Georgetown and whose show “On the Record” has been top in its time slot for more than a decade, and Laura Ingraham, who holds a law degree from the University of Virginia, in their roundup of dumb blondes.
Allure, a women’s beauty magazine, ran a poem by one of their editors, David DeNicolo, under the headline “Fox News Anchors: Hot or Not? With its bevy of babes, the network should be called the Foxy News Channel.” DeNicolo rhymed about the legs and hair and “gleaming smiles” of Fox News anchors and then, “Sure, Rachel Maddow has the smarts, But can she work her giggly parts?”
Jonathan Chait at New York magazine wrote: “If you have never seen Fox News before, here is a four-minute clip that captures the essence of the network so perfectly that you need never watch anything on it again. It’s all here. At the center, you have an old conservative white guy who is enraged about a fact that exists only in his addled brain. At his side, there’s a blonde sidekick who nods along with him but doesn’t get in the way.” The alleged cipher and “blonde sidekick” was Monica Crowley, a conservative radio host who holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University in International Affairs.
So pervasive is the smear that all the female commentators and anchors on Fox are dumb blonde chicks that it was actually fact-checked by Politi-Fact. That’s not a joke. They analyzed the female hosts’ and anchors’ hair color and found the assertion “mostly false,” because Fox had its fair share of black-haired and brunette women.
What might have been more elevating was recognizing the achievements of Fox News’ female anchors, reporters, and commentators. Mentioning for instance that Gretchen Carlson is an Emmy Award–winning reporter who used to work for CBS, or that Kimberly Guilfoyle of “The Five” is a former assistant district attorney, or that Jeanine Pirro is a former judge and district attorney. But acknowledging the talent and achievements of the people who work at Fox News contradicts the illiberal left’s propaganda that Fox News is somehow illegitimate. It is only “illegitimate” because the illiberal left wants to silence dissent and seeks to do so not through besting its opponents in argument and debate but through the lowest form of scurrilous sexism or simple refusal to tolerate other points of view.