NBC News host Megyn Kelly boosted the social media profile of a person when she aired an interview of him on her show on Sunday night.
The person is known for espousing a bunch of theories that are easily disprovable and in one particular case extremely painful for parents whose children died when a gunman killed 27 people in Newtown, Conn., including 20 young children and six school employees.
In the week before this person’s interview, he saw a spike in social media followers on a pair of prominent platforms: Facebook and Twitter.
For the seven-day period ending Monday, he pulled in nearly 8,000 Facebook followers. That’s his best haul of any week in the past three months, more than double his weekly follower gain over that period.
Twitter numbers show a similar pattern. He earned well in excess of 10,500 new followers over the past week, more than double his usual weekly follower growth over the same period.
Taken together, those numbers suggest that as a result of Kelly’s interview, more than 10,000 people decided to follow this person on social media who otherwise wouldn’t have.
Kelly and her supporters defended the interview by saying that it can “shine a light” on the “personally revolting” views of this person.
After viewing the interview, Politico’s Jack Shafer said it was Kelly’s proper role to “throw the disinfectant of light on the darkness.” NBC’s Andrea Mitchell said Kelly “did more to expose the real [conspiracy monger] than anyone else on TV. Solid journalism.” Political analyst Jeff Greenfield said, “No rational viewer could feel anything for him but disgust.”
But what about the irrational viewers?
Defense of the interview is predicated on the notion that by exposing the person, people would be turned off by his views. But his views are well-known, and it has not stopped him from gaining widespread attention and amassing a large number of supporters who agree with his easily disprovable claims.
And while some of the new people getting a daily, brain-rotting feed of paranoia, superstition and gay frogs will feel Kelly’s intended disgust and desire for distance, some portion will believe them.
The numbers almost certainly understate the extent to which Kelly’s interview has provided the man with a broader, more mainstream audience. They say nothing of the additional people who may now choose to tune into his radio show or check out the website where he peddles his theories.
Kelly did indeed succeed in “shining a light” on the man’s disgusting views, but it’s almost certain thousands of Americans liked what they saw.
President Trump appeared on the man’s show while campaigning in 2015, telling the man: “Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down.”