When Megyn Kelly launched Megyn Kelly Today, in late September 2017, the host made a great show of how apolitical NBC’s new show would be. “The truth is, I am kind of done with politics for now,” Kelly informed the audience, at home and in her soft-lit, blond-wooded, fresh-flowered studio, her tone managing to be confessional and conspiratorial at the same time. The assembled crowd roared with approval. “Right? I know!” Kelly said, gaining buoyancy as, line by line, she discarded the heavy mantle of political responsibility. Kelly shifted, first person to second. “You know why!” she continued. She shifted again, first-person plural: “We all feel it. It’s eeeverywhere. It’s everywhere.”
Kelly, in that introductory episode, wasn’t merely professing her new apolitical agenda, shedding Fox’s bulky stole in favor of a new and more modern wardrobe. She was also cleaning house. She was undergoing a willful and cheerful conversion ritual, on national television. In her laughter at the notion of “politics” as a practice was distilled a broader effort—made by Kelly herself, and by the network that had brought her on as part of its brand—to absolve Kelly of certain elements of her own extremely political past: all those Fox-friendly arguments she’d made about white Jesus, about white Santa, about Michael Brown, about Sandra Bland, about Mark Fuhrman, about the “thug mentality,” about the black teen girl who had been manhandled by police at a swimming pool in McKinney, Texas, being “no saint either.” Her long history of I’m just asking questions here provocations related to race: That’s politics, Kelly suggested last year as the crowd cheered and the flowers bloomed and that which was old was made new again. Megyn Kelly, erstwhile prosecutor, had professed her innocence.