Jane Fonda made headlines last fall for deftly feigning indignation when Megyn Kelly asked the actress why she once said she wasn't proud to admit to having plastic surgery.
Like trained seals, many in the media applauded Fonda's icy response – "We really want to talk about that now?" – as some sort of feminist statement from an actress who refused to be demeaned by questions about her looks, rather than questions about her work.
After months of Fonda publicly rehashing the incident, Kelly finally spent three minutes of her airtime offering a rebuttal on Monday. Here's how the Washington Post described Kelly's clap-back:
Kelly said Fonda “appears to be fixated on an exchange I had with her months ago, on this show” when Fonda was there to promote a film about aging. The host also said that Fonda has spoken for years about “her joy in giving a cultural face to older women” and that an honest discussion about that would involve Fonda’s plastic surgery.
“Fonda herself knows this,” Kelly said. “That is why, to her credit, she has discussed her cosmetic surgery pretty much everywhere before coming on our show.” Then out came the receipts; Kelly replayed a bunch of comments Fonda has given to other outlets mentioning her plastic surgery.
“Apparently, when she came here, however, again to promote her film about aging, I was supposed to discern that this subject was suddenly off-limits,” Kelly said. “Look, I gave her the chance to empower other women, young and old, on a subject which she purports to know well, and she rejected it.”
For her part, Fonda has since contended, "Given the fact that we don’t have a lot of time and [Robert Redford] is right here, it’s a weird thing to bring up, whether I’ve had plastic surgery or not. I have, and I’ve talked about it, but it just seemed like the wrong time and place to ask that question."
But, of course, she was there to discuss a movie that tackles an aging couple's romance. Not only does plastic surgery have everything to do with the topic, but Fonda had happily waded into the subject in other interviews.
Kelly's response to Fonda has not received positive reviews this week, which brings me to the only reason any of this feud is worth considering.
There has to be a check on the media's thoughtless impulse to applaud celebrities who sound like they're making righteous points and taking laudable stands in this era of Hollywood scandal. For years, entertainment outlets and writers have reflexively gushed over celebrities' vapid moralizing, which we now know more than ever before was coming from people who have no credibility at all.
They're entertainers, often with dubious moral backgrounds in their personal lives, as is evident from their almost universal knowledge of and willingness to tolerate widespread abuse of women. Their saving grace is that most of them know how to act. It's the media's job to ask tough questions that allow members of the public to determine whether they're just playing the part of woke celebrity or actually putting their money where their mouths are.
As much as I respect their commitment to day drinking, Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb aren't going to ask those questions. If Megyn Kelly wants to spend three minutes of her program actually calling out a celebrity for something the rest of her industry is too blinded by affection or too intimidated by groupthink to really talk about, then good on her.