If NBC News was looking to get attention for “Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly,” it has succeeded, thanks to the controversy over the host’s interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
But it’s not the kind of attention it was counting on. NBC News is expending a lot of energy to protect Kelly, whom it poached from Fox News and is paying $17 million a year to make its next big star.
The broadcast network’s news division now finds itself in a no-win situation. NBC faces pressure to scrap the interview and dampen a widening public relations fiasco. But doing so would also expose the network to criticism that it was capitulating to outside pressure.
On Thursday, lawyers for the families of the victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting threatened to sue NBC, saying it was furthering their suffering by airing Jones’ false statements. Jones has called the shooting in Newtown, Conn., that killed 26 people — including 20 children — a hoax to promote tougher gun control laws.
The legal threat follows pleas from the families not to run the piece.
“Airing Ms. Kelly’s interview implicitly endorses the notion that Mr. Jones’ lies are actually ‘claims’ that are worthy of serious debate; and in doing so it exponentially enhances the suffering and distress of our clients,” said a letter from Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, a law firm representing the Sandy Hook families. The letter was sent to NBC News Chairman Andy Lack and other executives at the network.
While there was no comment on the letter, the network appears to be responding to local pressure elsewhere. Late Friday, NBC-owned Connecticut TV station WVIT, which serves the Newtown area, told staffers it will not air “Sunday Night.”
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