- - Tuesday, October 30, 2018

On Friday, NBC announced that Megyn Kelly’s morning talk show, “Megyn Kelly Today,” had been cancelled. This happened to her — as The New York Times put it — “for wondering aloud on-air why it was inappropriate for white people to dress up (on Halloween) in blackface.”

I was sad to see the Peacock Network cancel her show the way they did for two reasons. The first is because I believe Megyn Kelly deserved better. If NBC was unhappy with her ratings, they should have ended her contact for that reason; not because of a relatively minor controversy caused by an insensitive comment.

From what I read, no one demanded her departure. The day after her blackface comment, her studio audience (including many people of color), gave her a standing ovation for offering a heartfelt apology, and The New York Times reported that “A question-and-answer session (that followed that apology) went well. None of the 150 attendees, many of whom were regulars at ‘Megyn Kelly Today’ tapings, criticized the host for her remarks, and several offered support.”

Megyn Kelly gave up a lot when she left Fox News, and although she put her foot in her mouth more than once at NBC (what talk show host hasn’t?), she still gave them everything they asked from her and more. At the very least she deserved the chance to say goodbye to her millions of loyal viewers. Instead, she was coldly dismissed under a shroud of controversy while the Internet labeled her a racist.

The second, and more troubling matter is that I fear our society is getting ever closer to an edge where no one is able to publicly learn from their mistakes anymore. To me, Megyn Kelly’s blackface comments proved sincere ignorance, not racism. She didn’t double-down on her insensitive words, she apologized. And more, she dedicated what we now know was her last show to educating her viewers about why she was wrong in the first place. In other words, she learned from her mistake and was sincerely trying to be better herself and help her viewers evolve alongside her.

History is full of men and women who ended on different paths from the ones they began on. For example, long before he issued the Emancipation Proclamation that ended slavery in America, Abraham Lincoln expressed opposition to racial equality, saying in a senatorial debate: “I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people.”

He added that whites and blacks could not “live together on terms of social and political equality.” and that “inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be a position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”

Before becoming the first U.S. president to openly support gay marriage, Barack Obama said in a Q&A for MTV News: “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage.” He took similar stances enough that Politico rated his eventual support for gay marriage as a “full flop” from his original positions.

If either of these former presidents had not been given space and time — as Mr. Obama put it — to “evolve” in their ideology, the course of U.S. history would have been significantly altered.

Which brings me back to Megyn Kelly. She is nothing if not honest and real with her audience. She would not apologize over her blackface comment if she didn’t mean it. And it didn’t take her years to recognize her error; she evolved in her thinking overnight. Not because she was a racist and now she’s not, but because she didn’t see how insensitive and offensive something was and now she does.

How do we teach our children that they can learn from their own mistakes when we don’t allow the people they admire to do the same? President Trump’s critics can’t constantly bash him for never taking responsibility for his behavior when they equally bash other public personalities who do.

Taking personal responsibility should mean something. Evolving and learning from our mistakes should, too. Unless we learn to give one another the space we all depend on to learn and grow through our mistakes, we are doomed to create a society where taking personal responsibility happens less, and reinforcing dangerous positions and beliefs happens more.

• Daryl Austin is a small business owner and writer from Orem, Utah.

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