Fox News hasn’t confirmed it, but when the Drudge Report stated that Megyn Kelly would be replacing Sean Hannity during the 9 p.m. prime time hour on the Fox News network, the rumor was taken as fact, both because of Drudge’s right-wing bonafides and because the move made a lot of sense. Normally, moving Fox personalities around is a matter of shuffling among cookie-cutter views. But in this case, the Fox tail could be wagging the Republican party dog in a new direction on gay issues.
On most gay issues at least, Kelly has been, especially for Fox, remarkably measured. She has ripped a transphobic guest to pieces during an interview, she has repeatedly compared banning same-sex marriage to banning interracial marriage, and has called other conservatives on the carpet for denying scientific evidence that children of gay parents are just as adjusted as other children.
Now lest we go into a swoon too soon, Kelly has her bad moments. Last April, she asked Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, how it felt to be attacked by people “who want tolerance and acceptance.” Since Perkins heads an organization designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, he hardly seems worthy of concerns about his tender feelings, unless you grant him legitimacy he doesn’t deserve.
Still, the elevation of Kelly could be one sign that Fox might point the way out of the GOP’s homophobic death spiral. On a lot of other issues, the party is unlikely to change. But if one of the network’s stars talks about gays in ways that are positive and gets a great big promotion, you have to pause.
Fox and its president Roget Ailes control the conversation on the right and set the agenda for the GOP. If Fox shifts the rhetoric on LGBT people, that will shift the rhetoric within the party. It probably won’t bring tons of young folks to Fox News prime time, but it will make it easier for the GOP to say to young voters that it isn’t totally out of touch on gay issues. That is potentially a big deal.
It’s worth noting that the man Kelly is replacing, Sean Hannity, hasn’t made homophobia a theme of his broadcast the way some of his peers have, although he has had his moments and has certainly given plenty of air time to crazies. (Remember Sarah Palin defending her daughter’s use of “faggot” against a friend in a Facebook posting? Good times!) Hannity even has a dating site that, for reasons best explained by them, has attracted a handful of gay men looking for love.
If change comes to Fox at all, it won’t be overnight. And it won’t be a total conversion. There will still be plenty of air time for the Tony Perkinses and Mike Huckabees of the world. Fox News coverage will still underplay gay issues or ridicule an LGBT community that exists only its hosts’ imagination. But just maybe, the network sees that some change has to happen. If that’s the case, Megyn Kelly would be the first place to look.
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