NEW YORK — Some top people at CNN have come to Megyn Kelly’s defense in the wake of criticism she’s received for interviewing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, but say NBC News hasn’t done itself any favors.
NBC’s handling of the interview, scheduled to air on Kelly’s newsmagazine at 7 p.m. EDT Sunday, has given fuel to the backlash against her, said Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide, on Thursday.
Kelly has been attacked for interviewing the “Infowars” host, primarily because he has questioned whether the shooting that killed 26 people at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 was a hoax. Some parents of children killed in Newtown said NBC shouldn’t feature Jones. An anti-gun violence group founded by Sandy Hook parents dropped Kelly as a host for one of its events.
Her interview quickly became a topic of discussion at a news conference CNN held to promote its morning show, “New Day.” Zucker and the show’s anchors, Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota, said Jones is a newsworthy subject for an interview because he has President Donald Trump’s ear.
“It’s a little dangerous to get into the ‘you don’t deserve a platform’ business,” Cuomo said.
The CNN leaders criticized NBC News for the brief clip, or “tease,” that it released of Kelly interviewing Jones to promote the interview, saying it left open the question of whether Kelly would challenge him enough.
“The way they have thus far presented it has not led to much belief that he’s being held to account as much as somebody who spews such hatred and nonsense needs to be,” Zucker said.
“If you’re going to do this story, the tease needs to be you holding up a picture of the dead kids and saying, ‘how dare you?'” he said.
NBC News said it had no comment on Zucker’s opinions. He’s a touchy topic at the network, since Zucker’s career started as a youthful whiz producing the “Today” show, and went on to lead NBC Universal before leaving under unpleasant circumstances.
Cuomo said NBC should release the full transcript of Kelly’s interview ahead of time so viewers can judge for themselves how Jones has been treated. NBC has not said whether it will do so. That’s a risk for TV executives, since they don’t want to give viewers an excuse for not watching on Sunday.
Cuomo said he didn’t envy the producers responsible for editing the interview, given all the attention being paid to it.
“The marketing of this has thus far been unfortunate,” Zucker said. “Megyn is a very good journalist and I expect — especially in light of what’s been said this week — that (Jones) will be held to account. Let’s not prejudge what the story will be until we see it.”