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Dennis Myers: Megyn Kelly’s Nevada adventure

NBC News is having some problems with its new news anchor, Megyn Kelly.

Nevada, having had some encounters with Kelly, could probably have offered the network some advice. Perhaps it is not too late.

My favorite is Kelly attesting to a Disneyland-to-brothel railroad Nevada was allegedly planning in 2009. Harry Reid was still Senate Democratic leader and Republicans claimed the Democrats were using money in an omnibus spending bill for the alleged railroad. Kelly attested to their truthfulness:

“Critics say it [the omnibus bill] contains over 9,000 earmarks, and they say one of those is based in Senate majority leader Harry Reid’s home state of Nevada – a super-railroad, of sorts, a line that will deliver customers straight from Disney, we kid you not, to the doorstep of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Nevada.”

She then turned to U.S. Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona, whose only credentials for this report were that he could breathe on a mirror and he was a Republican. Kelly asked Franks this question:

“When you raise this criticism with anyone from the Obama administration, they don’t like it, they say it’s not fair, because there is no line item in this budget that specifically directs the project out to that rail line. They say there’s $8 billion in there for, you know, railroad projects, but not specifically for that one. Is their defense valid?”

Franks then replied: “Well, no. The majority leader of the U.S. Senate, Harry Reid, has fought for this publicly and is committed to this project and even in the face of criticism and it’s always astonishing to me. You know, at one point we had the bridge to nowhere, now we have the train to the Moonlite Bunny Ranch.”

It’s difficult to know where to start with all this. First of all, journalists are normally skeptical, and this was a tale that the editor of a junior high newspaper would suspect, yet Kelly offers “we kid you not” about something she concedes the administration flatly denied. Why would she attest to its honesty since she had plainly not checked the text of the legislation herself?

In the Washington Monthly, Steve Benen wrote, “I love the way Megyn Kelly adds ‘we kid you not’ while blatantly lying to a national television audience.”

Second, why is Trent Franks her interview on this topic? He says yes to any interview request, but he was not on a money committee. Rather, he sat on Judiciary and Armed Services. Why didn’t Fox wait until they found someone who knew the topic? Franks says yes to any interview request, but waiting for someone informed makes better news. And where is someone representing the other side?

Of course, Reid and the Democrats can take care of themselves, and their defenders got a lot of mileage out of poking fun at this false claim. But what Kelly did to a Democrat she could do to a Republican. Lousy research doesn’t stop at the party’s edge.

Kelly became famous outside Fox circles when she co-hosted an Aug. 6, 2015 debate of Republican presidential candidates and asked Donald Trump about his repeated slanders of women. Kelly did a good job, but she has not been consistent in maintaining that kind of quality. And even in that encounter, she did not challenge Trump defining decency and kindness as “political correctness.”

She once ran more than 40 reports about a couple of African-American men in a fringe political group who harassed whites at the polls.

She said it was a “verifiable fact” that Santa Claus was white, though how we verify the color of an imaginary figure is anyone’s guess. Paul Bunyan’s Babe the blue ox can safely be adjudged blue, but how did Kelly ascertain Santa’s color? I’m not sure Coke ads would be admissible in court.

Those who criticize her for interviewing radio personality Alex Jones are off base. People with followings are legitimate subjects of reporting and interviewing. Failing to give them scrutiny would be a bigger mistake. Just because Time magazine named Hitler man of the year in 1938 does not mean the magazine supported him.

Sandy Hook Elementary School families asked NBC News not to broadcast Kelly’s interview of Jones because he has called the Newtown, Connecticut, school killings a fraud. But people who make extreme claims like that must be called to account. The real question is whether Kelly is the best person to do the job.

Dennis Myers is an award-winning journalist who has reported on Nevada’s capital, government and politics for several decades. He has also served as Nevada’s chief deputy secretary of state.

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