Controversial former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly made her debut with her new network, NBC, last Sunday, scoring an exclusive one-on-one interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But previously unaired video released Saturday from that interview shows Kelly finishing the interview flattering Putin — who is responsible for a long series of human rights violations against his own people as well as, according to United States intelligence agencies, tampering with the 2016 U.S. presidential election — by telling him that he has “brought dignity back to Russia.”
Kelly makes the remark in the context of relating to Putin that the Russian people hold him in high regard, and believe that he has restored “respect” to Russia. But Kelly appears to endorse the view, going on to ask Putin about the “personal toll” leading Russia for 17 years may have taken on him.
In his article about the interview for HuffPost (formerly the Huffington Post), journalist Yashar Ali — who unearthed the unedited interview footage — describes the question as “startling in its pandering” to the Russian political strongman who, despite the fact that he has been elected, operates as Russia’s dictator, according to experts.
“I can’t begin to tell you what this did for Putin’s ego, and I wouldn’t put it past the Kremlin to use it for propaganda purposes,” a former CIA Russia analyst, shocked by Kelly’s “softball” question to Putin, told Ali. “Putin’s obsession is, by his definition, making Russia great again.”
Watch Kelly ask the strangely obsequious question of Putin in the video below.
NBC News chief Andy Lack hired Kelly away from Fox in January, offering her what industry insiders believe was a raise over the $15 million per year salary she earned at the ultraconservative network. Poaching Kelly from Fox was reported to be part of Lack’s overall plan to move the liberal-favorite MSNBC cable news network toward a more conservative-leaning position in a marketplace that seems unable to get enough of political talk and interview programming.
The move by Lack comes despite the fact that MSNBC’s liberal perspective has garnered a new crop of viewers since Donald Trump took office in January, sending ratings soaring — with the network’s evening flagship Rachel Maddow Show consistently topping all cable news shows in prime time.
But with the Putin interview, and the release of the unedited footage, followed on Sunday, June 18, by Kelly’s interview with conspiracy theorist and Trump supporter Alex Jones, NBC has been accused of “botching” the introduction of Kelly into the network’s lineup.
Jones himself released recordings of Kelly, off the air, promising the conspiracy theorist — who gained notoriety for, among other wild assertions, claiming that the Sandy Hook schoolhouse massacre was an elaborate hoax perpetrated by the government — that her interview of him would be an unchallenging one.
“This is not going to be a contentious, sort of ‘gotcha’ exchange,” Kelly is heard telling Jones on the recordings.
“It’s malpractice… What they’ve done is rush her on the air into controversial interviews, reinforcing a political brand,” one television executive told CNN in a report on the “botched” Kelly debut. “They’ve made a fundamental mistake about Megyn which is they think she’s a super star. What she is is a cable star, and that is a very different solar system.”