Welcome to the new Fox News. Not only does Shepard Smith have a new News Deck — a TV newsroom that's finally worthy of the 21st century, as imagined by the sci-fi writers of the mid-20th century — but longtime news anchor Megyn Kelly has a new prime time program, The Kelly File. Although her 9 p.m. show is between Bill O'Reilly's O'Reilly Factor and Sean Hannity's eponymous program, Kelly says she's going to be a news anchor, not a pundit.
Monday night was the first show, and Kelly's first guest was Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Her first question: "What's it like to be the most hated man in America?" That's a pretty bold introduction, and Cruz, after congratulating Kelly on her new show, waded in.
Democrats "are throwing every insult they can, but the reality is most Americans don't care about politicians bickering," he said. "I don't intend to defend myself. I don't intend to reciprocate. Why? What matters is responding to the American people."
Of course, plenty of Republicans are frustrated with Cruz, too, blaming his defund-ObamaCare-or-no-budget strategy for driving the GOP into a ditch with no plan to get the party back out. And the post-shutdown polls aren't tilting in the GOP's favor.
A new Washington Post–ABC News poll shows 70 percent of Americans disapproving of how Republicans are handling the budget negotiations — 51 percent strongly so — versus 24 percent who approve. Democrats in Congress have taken a smaller hit (61 disapprove/35 approve), and Obama's numbers actually improved from last week (51/45). A new Politico poll also shows the shutdown boosting Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe (D), giving him a wide lead over Ken Cuccinelli (R).
Kelly focused on a different Politico poll, showing Cruz's own underwater favorability ratings:
Kelly asked some borderline tough questions, but while she "teased the segment by citing the blowback against the Texan within his own party," she barely touched on that with Cruz himself, says Brian Lowry at Variety. Kelly did ask if Cruz's shutdown tactic might be "costing" him and his party politically, but mostly she "seemed fairly content to let Cruz engage in another filibuster."
Much of the segment is Cruz blaming Senate Democrats for failing to pass GOP House bills to fund individual parts of the federal government, such as FEMA and the Veterans Affairs department, and for refusing to negotiate. His arguments probably won't change anyone's mind, but he did a fine job with his side's talking points.
While Americans disagree about the shutdown and the politics behind it, most of us have a soft spot for a mom and her new baby — and that's how Kelly ended her inaugural show. She thanked everyone who sent her gifts and messages after the birth of her third son, Thatcher, in July, and showed a photo of her "little guy." Watch, via Mediaite: