Megyn Kelly: PC vs Free Speech

Olivia Oehmcke

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Political commentator, journalist, and talk show host Megyn Kelly has been under public scrutiny since making some questionable remarks on her NBC show, “Megyn Kelly Today” on Tuesday, October 23rd. 

During a segment titled “Halloween Costume Crackdown”, Kelly discussed the use of blackface in regards to Halloween costumes, asking, “But what is racist? So truly you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface for Halloween or a black person who puts on white face for Halloween.” However, the outbreak began when Kelly stated, “Back when I was a kid [blackface] was okay as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character.” 

Viewers are outraged, saying the use of blackface has racist implications now, and it very well did back then too. Claims that Kelly’s remark about blackface was racially insensitive and out of line were enough to get NBC to cancel “Megyn Kelly Today” altogether. 

As a long time fan of Kelly, I must admit that the claims she made were distasteful in some aspects but not surprising in the least. In the past, Kelly’s audience praised her for her strong opinions and outspoken personality, but have these qualities ultimately ended her career? 

NBC News won over Megyn Kelly from Fox News with a hefty three year, $69 million contract and an hour of prime air time. However, NBC was not pleased when ratings for Kelly’s show dropped 13% from its predecessor, between September of 2017 and September of 2018. 

This is not the first time Kelly’s blunt remarks on air got her put on blast and NBC knew this, and is possibly what attracted the network to her more. When the ratings for Kelly’s show didn’t live up to expectations, it became clear that this scandal was the perfect scapegoat for canceling the show and possibly terminating Kelly’s contract entirely. The issue now is the thin line this creates for other journalists and hosts between speaking freely and being politically correct. 

I cannot defend the comments Kelly made on blackface because her intentions will never be clear. What I can defend is American journalists and citizens’ right to freedom of speech. I will agree that perhaps Kelly should have spoken more sensitively on this topic on national television, but I can’t agree with the recent notion that political correctness trumps the first amendment.

As an aspiring journalist, the reach of the political correctness movement worries me. I feel as though every day we are getting closer and closer to a world that imitates the dystopian society George Orwell depicts in 1984

It has become so difficult to have a sincere conversation about important topics such as racism when it seems as though everyone is walking on eggshells because we are so afraid of being the one called racist. How will society make any legitimate progress if we are constantly censoring what we say and how we say it? 

Nowadays we tip-toe around sensitive issues and avoid meaningful discussions in fear of saying anything considered offensive, and by doing so, we hinder any societal progress that would be made if we had those discussions. I don’t want to live to experience a time in America when even journalists withhold their freedom of speech out of fear of being offensive, because the truth cannot always be pretty. 

To be clear, I do not support any racist intentions behind Kelly’s remarks. But the obvious motives behind NBC ditching Kelly and her show, and using this controversy as the excuse sends a very hurtful message on free speech to Americans.