Fox News host Megyn Kelly caused a mini-media storm when she asserted that Santa Claus and Jesus were both white. She backed off a bit on Jesus, but accuses her critics of race-baiting.
For TV personalities, the most important thing is exposure, even – often especially – if it means controversy. Toss out some outrageous political or cultural tidbit and watch the fur fly as your audience numbers bounce up.
Sometimes the tidbit goes too far, even for cable TV. Martin Bashir got bounced from MSNBC recently for what he admitted had been his “shameful” comments about Sarah Palin. (“America’s resident dunce,” the British broadcaster had called her.)
But anybody who thinks that Fox News host Megyn Kelly was actually shocked – shocked! – that people would react to her comments this week about Santa Claus and Jesus doesn’t understand the way such things work.
The point was to keep her in the news, and her assertion that Santa and Jesus – one a historical figure, the other (don’t tell the kids) a made-up character – were both white, and that "just because it makes you feel uncomfortable it doesn't mean it has to change” certainly did just that.
Response ranged from outrage to ridicule to lengthy serious commentary on the history of both individuals.
African Americans noted that when they were kids, Santa in their neighborhood was often black.
“That this genial, jolly man can only be seen as white – and consequently, that a Santa of any other hue is merely a ‘joke’ or a chance to trudge out racist stereotypes helps perpetuate the whole ‘white-as-default’ notion endemic to American culture,” Slate blogger Aisha Harris had written a few days earlier, which apparently set Kelly off as part of Fox’s annual “war on Christmas” shtick.