For viewers who had never heard of Alex Jones before Sunday evening, Megyn Kelly’s much-hyped interview with him on NBC did not paint a flattering picture.
In a 17-minute segment — which had generated hours of commentary and a raft of protests before it aired — Ms. Kelly repeatedly challenged Mr. Jones, the conspiracy theorist, Infowars founder and influential right-wing personality.
She pressed him on his baseless claims that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax. She confronted him about describing teenage victims of the terror attack in Manchester, England, in May as “liberal trendies.” And she described his behavior as “reckless accusation, followed by equivocations and excuses.”
Ms. Kelly’s solemn and scolding tone — “That doesn’t excuse what you did and said about Newtown,” she told Mr. Jones at one point as he tried to explain his views on Sandy Hook — may placate some who objected when the former Fox News anchor announced her feature on Mr. Jones.
Media Matters, the liberal advocacy site that had raised alarms about NBC’s decision to cover Mr. Jones, called the segment “a well-edited investigation of the dangers posed by an unstable megalomaniac with millions of loyal fans.”
Others said Ms. Kelly did not go far enough in her interrogation, or argued that the mere fact that the segment was being aired, regardless of its handling, would only serve to raise Mr. Jones’s renown. “Still a win for him; boosts his profile,” the media critic Margaret Sullivan wrote on Twitter.
Executives at NBC — who re-edited Ms. Kelly’s segment throughout the week and have gambled millions of dollars on her success — were likely to be feeling some relief. In recent days, relatives of Sandy Hook victims had denounced the network; the NBC affiliate in Connecticut announced it would not air the segment; and critics like Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York said Ms. Kelly was abetting Mr. Jones with her reporting.
A photograph released by Mr. Jones last week showed Ms. Kelly smiling with him during their time together, heightening skepticism that she would be tough on him.
“Some thought we shouldn’t broadcast this interview because his baseless allegations aren’t just offensive, they’re dangerous,” Ms. Kelly said at the outset of Sunday’s segment. “But here’s the thing: Alex Jones isn’t going away.”
To drive home Mr. Jones’s relevance, Ms. Kelly noted his millions of listeners, including one prominent fan: President Trump. She showed clips of Mr. Trump, on the campaign trail last year, reciting talking points from Mr. Jones and making a friendly appearance in a video on Mr. Jones’s website.
In a voice-over, Ms. Kelly said that Mr. Jones’s message “has caused enormous pain,” and in the interview, she read aloud to Mr. Jones his statements about the Sandy Hook murders and asked: “All of the parents decided to come out and lie about their dead children?”
Mr. Jones stammered and often sidestepped Ms. Kelly’s questions. But he stuck to his argument that he was playing a “devil’s advocate.”
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