Flash! Fox’s Megyn Kelly now admits Jesus may not be 'white'

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.

Richard Drew/AP
Megyn Kelly, host of Fox News Channel's "The Kelly Files," raised a mini-media storm when she claimed that Santa Claus and Jesus were "white men."

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.

Ms. Harris suggested that maybe Santa should be depicted as a North Pole penguin.
 
Noting that the historical character St. Nicholas was born in what is now Turkey, Jon Stewart said, "My guess is that there'd be no Christmas if he looked like that dude, because he's probably still on the no-fly list.”

As for Jesus, Stewart’s answer to Kelly was, “"You do know that Jesus wasn't born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, right?"

“Kelly has made a serious error about Jesus,” Jonathan Merritt, senior columnist for Religion News Service and author of “A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars,” wrote in the Atlantic. “The scholarly consensus is actually that Jesus was, like most first-century Jews, probably a dark-skinned man. If he were taking the red-eye flight from San Francisco to New York today, Jesus might be profiled for additional security screening by TSA.”

OK, OK, you guys, Kelly responded on Friday. Can’t you recognize tongue-in-cheek when you see it?

"Humor is part of what we try to bring to the show. Sometimes that's lost on the humorless,” she said.

"This would be funny if it were not so telling about our society,” Kelly said. “In particular the knee jerk instinct by so many to race bait and to assume the worst in people, especially people employed by the very powerful Fox News channel.”

She did concede that she had been wrong to assert that “Jesus was a white man.”

The question of Jesus' race is "far from settled,” she acknowledged.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.