Lisa Kennedy Montgomery is best known to a generation as, simply, Kennedy — the hip MTV VJ who helped introduce America to Nirvana and Soundgarden on Alternative Nation, mimed oral sex on a mic during the 1994 VMAs — while standing next to Rudy Giuliani, no less — and eventually came out as a die-hard Republican. (In a ’94 Vanity Fair profile, she even declared her ardent love for former vice president Dan Quayle.)
Nearly 20 years later, the 41-year-old mother of two has left her wild-child past behind for a career as a writer, radio host, and Fox Business contributor. But while her political views haven’t really changed, the way she labels herself has: Kennedy now identifies as a libertarian. Her next project, a Fox Business roundtable called The Independents, will allow Kennedy and her co-hosts, Matt Welch and Kmele Foster, to tackle news from an angle that, in her mind, is both tough to find on TV and absolutely vital. “The reason our show exists is because the idea of a two-party system has failed,” she tells EW.
Hours before her new show’s big premiere, Kennedy called us up to chat about the evolution of her political views, what she’s hoping to achieve with The Independents, the glory days of MTV — and her thoughts on Miley’s infamous VMA performance.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First, let’s talk generally about the show — its format, what sorts of topics you’ll cover, and the kind of guests you hope to have.
LISA KENNEDY MONTGOMERY: It’s four nights a week. We’re going to be on nine o’clock Monday through Wednesday and Friday nights. We’re going to be in the same time slot as Stossel. John Stossel’s hosted a show on Fox Business for years now. He’s amazing. He became a libertarian from the left. At times it’s going to be heavy. At times it’s going to be really lighthearted and absurd, because the political climate right now is absurd. We want to have liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans all on the show to talk about the issues that they’re invested in. We don’t want to have a show where we’re just sitting around fighting, because that’s not interesting. We want to kind of analyze things and have a discussion, and I don’t want to just have people on and raise straw man arguments. I want to have people on and hear why they believe what they believe, see if they can change my mind, and let them know that there are a lot of people out there who are frustrated with the way the government is being run right now.
Are there any other shows currently on the air that you’re looking to as a model?
I mean, we love Stossel. I loved Penn and Teller’s show on Showtime [Penn & Teller: Bullsh–!]. We all watch a lot of cable news shows, and it’s pretty right/left. And they get to be pretty shouty. So in terms of a show for libertarians, for independents, no, there’s really nothing like that on right now.
What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people who belong to either party have about libertarians?
We get attacked from the right and the left, and I think that means that we’re doing something right. If Rick Santorum and Rachel Maddow are both gunning for you, it probably means you’re on the right track. People think that libertarians are probably greedy and anti-social, and I’m sure some of them are. But the nice thing about it is, it’s really an umbrella term that covers a lot of different people. There are libertarians who are survivalists, who live in the middle of nowhere and who are ready for the world to end. And then there are pragmatists, and I would consider myself to be a pretty pragmatic person. I just don’t want some regulatory, bureaucratic body giving my child a one-size-fits-all education, or keeping my husband from producing a good product in the state of California. [Montgomery is married to Signal Snowboards CEO Dave Lee.] Like, those are the two most important things to me, and I see how government and regulations can get in the way. I think when the government gets out of the way, people can achieve phenomenal things.
You famously called yourself a Republican in your MTV days — how have your political views evolved since then?
It’s funny, because they’ve pretty much stayed consistent. Where I was back in the early ’90s, I really considered myself to be a Republican, and I wanted to be a Republican, but I didn’t like what the Republican party had to say about my gay friends, in particular. And I thought that the war on drugs didn’t make a lot of sense, even though I don’t take drugs. But that’s not the point when you’re interested in things like personal freedoms. It doesn’t have to be your cause in order to fight for it. But Kurt Loder and Penn Jillette both were like, “No, you’re libertarian. You’re not a Republican.” And I didn’t even know what that term meant in 1993 when Kurt told me.
Do you still have your elephant tattoo? [Kennedy pulled down her underwear to show the ink to guitarist John McLaughlin at Bill Clinton's first inaugural ball.]
I do. I still have my elephant tattoo, I still have my Romanian flag, and I still have my Rocket from the Crypt tattoo. And Rocket from the Crypt just recently got back together. I’ll see if that tattoo still gets me into their shows for free, because it did in 1992.
Maybe the elephant will get you into the RNC or something.
Yeah. It’s funny, because it looks like a pig. That’s the sad thing. It’s pink; it’s not even red, white, and blue. I don’t know what I was thinking. I was 18. But I still like my little pig with the trunk. It looked funny when I got pregnant.
Can you see yourself inviting any of your old MTV pals to come on The Independents?
Oh yeah, we definitely want to have musicians on. We want to have all kinds of people. We don’t want to have people that we just agree with, because it’s really boring sitting around talking about how neat your views are with people who just agree with you. You should be challenged a little bit. But I definitely want to have non-traditional guests.
I know this is barely relevant, but since I have you on the phone — I was wondering if you watched the VMAs this year, and if you have any thoughts on Miley Cyrus.
Miley Cyrus did exactly what she was supposed to do. The women in her generation are such supremely talented songwriters. I really hadn’t heard her music before that performance. And I don’t think her music’s that great, but I think her voice is really good. I was actually at the iHeartRadio Music Festival, working, and I saw her perform “Wrecking Ball.” She had mascara streaming down her face — that was an incredible performance. She’s truly moved by it; the song really means something to her. Her voice was really clear; she’s got a great voice. But she’s a little bit of a hooker in training.
You know, everyone does it in their late teens and early 20s — you really try and redefine yourself. And when you have been so clearly defined and so closely associated with something as massive as Disney, people work so hard to get away from that squeaky-clean image. And she’s not alone — Lindsay Lohan’s done the same thing, Justin Bieber’s doing the same thing. They go through this clunky, awkward phase where they have to be overly sexual and prove that they’re booze-bags or weed-hounds or whatever. They all get over it. But she’s essentially a talented person, and she’s also coming of age in that sort of post-Gaga shadow, where everything has to be outrageous in order to break through. She came out at a really funny time where Gaga’s tricks are wearing a little thin. Her record sales reflect that, and Miley Cyrus is sort of poking through on the tail end of that, a little bit more of a hyper-sexual model — like a late-model Gaga. But you know, they’ve all figured out that you really have to be able to sing in order to sell music. And I like that. I like that Taylor Swift can write music and sing. My girls love Katy Perry. We don’t talk about Miley Cyrus; they’re too young to be introduced to that brand of hookerdom. But Taylor Swift and Katy Perry are sweet girls with nice voices. So good for her.
When you compare the current music landscape to that of the early ’90s, are you happy that your MTV days happened when they did?
There are no VJs now. Music is not found on MTV — so unless I were a pregnant teenager, I don’t think there would be much for someone like me to do on MTV. I loved my time at MTV because the music was critical; the music was our thrust. That’s what the channel was all about. And I loved that, because we were pushing the limits with how we were covering and interviewing and consuming music and bands. And the network’s relationship with labels and bands was so important. It’s not like that now. The cool thing about now — I do cover music. I have a morning music show, and I love going to Coachella, I love going to Lollapalooza, I love going to iHeartRadio. And I love that you can so easily consume music. Think about how many songs you have on your iPhone. It still blows my mind. And the ease with which you can download music today is just fantastic. I spend more money on iTunes than I do on clothes.
The Independents premieres tonight at 9 p.m. ET on Fox Business.