Megyn Kelly's show in doubt after blackface comments

Two years of pent-up bitterness and backbiting about Megyn Kelly have finally come to a head at NBC News....

Posted: Oct 25, 2018 10:09 AM
Updated: Oct 25, 2018 10:09 AM

Two years of pent-up bitterness and backbiting about Megyn Kelly have finally come to a head at NBC News.

Her exit from the 9 a.m. hour of the "Today" show appears to be imminent. Variety reported on Wednesday evening that Kelly and NBC News executives have been holding conversations about a new role for her.

Celebrities

Comcast Corp

Companies

Megyn Kelly

NBC

NBCUniversal

Al Roker

Apologies

Halloween

Holidays and observances

Andy Lack

Business figures

Two people familiar with the matter confirmed that to CNN Business and said Kelly's show will be ending. Negotiations about the end date and other details are still underway. But Kelly will not be hosting Thursday's program, and she is unlikely to return later, one of the people said. So "Megyn Kelly Today" may end very soon.

Kelly has parted ways with her talent agency, CAA, according to two sources, and she has hired attorney Bryan Freedman.

Kelly's offensive remarks about blackface Halloween costumes on Tuesday have raised more questions about her future at NBC. Spokespeople for NBC News declined to comment, and most staffers at the news division remain in the dark.

Tuesday's controversy made national news and stoked disappointment and resentment within NBC, according to multiple sources at the network.

Kelly started her show on Wednesday by apologizing for comments made the previous day. Her audience gave her a standing ovation, but disappointment inside NBC News runs deep and isn't likely to fade anytime soon.

NBC News chair Andy Lack condemned her racially insensitive comments during a town hall meeting with staffers on Wednesday morning. (The meeting was scheduled well before the controversy ensued.)

Lack spearheaded Kelly's hiring and championed her 9 a.m. show. But this week his news division has covered the Kelly controversy on multiple programs. Instead of promoting the "Today" show as a happy family, NBC has aired the family's fight — giving time to Al Roker and others who strongly criticized Kelly's comments.

Tuesday's blackface talk — featuring an all-white panel of guests — was a major misstep. But the Kelly rancor is about more than one segment.

The New York Times reported on Wednesday evening that Kelly and Lack "discussed a possible winding-down of her portion of the 'Today' show by the end of the year," meaning the conversations pre-dated this week's controversy.

Kelly has many critics and rivals within the famed news division — people who say she never should have been hired from Fox News, certainly not for such a huge salary, and certainly not for a morning show like "Megyn Kelly Today."

These NBC staffers routinely call Kelly's show a "disaster" and other disparaging terms.

Most of the anger isn't directed at her, exactly, but at the management of NBC News — the men who hired her away from Fox in January 2017.

"We're lucky to have her," Lack said on the day her new deal was announced.

At the time, some other TV executives agreed. After all, there had been a bidding war for Kelly when it became clear that she wanted to leave Fox.

Lack called her an "exceptional journalist and news anchor."

But Kelly was best known for fiery segments on Fox's staunchly conservative prime time schedule. There was widespread concern that she was being miscast at NBC.

The network said she would have two main jobs: A 9 a.m. talk show and a Sunday night newsmagazine. Her reported salary of $23 million a year for three years, totaling $69 million, became a bit of a scandal inside NBC, even before she started on the air.

Kelly's morning show premiered in September of 2017. Television critics found a lot to criticize. And Kelly had some early stumbles, like an awkward exchange with Jane Fonda that made headlines for a long time afterward.

Some of the controversies stoked curiosity about her new show, but mostly it just caused embarrassment and snickering about how long she would last at NBC. Most importantly, the 9 a.m. show did not meet ratings expectations.

As the Wall Street Journal put it in a headline earlier this year, "NBC bet $69 million on Megyn Kelly — then viewers vanished."

Kelly's rivals noted that the earlier iteration of the 9 a.m. hour was more profitable back when Roker and Tamron Hall were the hosts. That's partly because they were paid a lot less.

Some people in the TV business said Kelly was given bad career advice. Others said NBC was unrealistic about expectations for her show. And still others said Kelly's talent was not easily transferable from Fox to other networks.

NBC introduced Kelly's Sunday newsmagazine, but the program didn't last long. As predicted, it suffered in the ratings versus long-running competitors like "60 Minutes," and it was hobbled by scheduling issues.

On the air, Kelly's morning show has notched some wins — her show has been full of fascinating conversations and candid interviews. But it is still a ratings laggard. And the blackface controversy reinforces the perception — to the public at large — that Kelly is a Fox News personality, not a member of the "Today" show family.

During the offending segment on Tuesday, Kelly said it was OK when she was growing up for white people to dress up as black characters, and she spoke out against a controversy that erupted last year over a reality star who portrayed Diana Ross.

"But what is racist?" Kelly asked. "Because you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface on Halloween, or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid that was OK, as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character."

Later in the day, Kelly said sorry to her colleagues in an email: "Today is one of those days where listening carefully to other points of view, including from friends and colleagues, is leading me to rethink my own views."

On Tuesday evening, "NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt" covered the Kelly story when few other networks paid it much attention. Roker, Melvin and other members of the "Today" show cast had a remarkably candid conversation about the controversy during the 7 a.m. hour of the show on Wednesday.

The situation demonstrates the continuing unease about and disarray within NBC News over Kelly, whose hire and installation in the network's morning hours was controversial.

Roker said "she owes a bigger apology to folks of color across the country."

His blunt words expressed a point of view shared by many within the news organization.

"Today" colleague Craig Melvin also called out Kelly's comments for being "stupid" and "indefensible." He pointed out that this controversy is an opportunity to inform people — but said most people already knew how offensive blackface is.

On her show Wednesday, Kelly said, "I want to begin with two words, I'm sorry... The country feels so divided and I have no wish to add to that pain and offense. I believe this is a time for more understanding, more love, more sensitivity and honor... Thank you for listening and for helping me listen too."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 29684

Reported Deaths: 1103
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds238239
DeSoto148616
Madison126734
Jones110449
Neshoba98171
Lauderdale90079
Rankin88812
Forrest85142
Harrison84210
Scott76215
Copiah59216
Jackson58416
Leake57019
Holmes54441
Wayne53513
Lee53218
Oktibbeha53226
Washington5319
Warren49618
Yazoo4936
Leflore48049
Lowndes47212
Lincoln44334
Lamar4407
Grenada4325
Pike40712
Monroe38830
Lafayette3774
Attala35823
Sunflower3467
Newton3389
Covington3345
Panola3256
Bolivar32114
Adams29318
Simpson2833
Pontotoc2736
Marion27011
Tate2709
Chickasaw26918
Claiborne25610
Jasper2566
Winston2546
Noxubee2538
Pearl River24832
Clay24710
Marshall2173
Smith21611
Clarke20524
Coahoma1916
Union1919
Walthall1804
Kemper17714
Lawrence1701
Yalobusha1677
Carroll16411
Itawamba1348
Humphreys1329
Calhoun1284
Tippah12811
Hancock12613
Webster12610
Montgomery1242
Tallahatchie1224
Jefferson Davis1094
Prentiss1023
Greene1018
Jefferson993
Tunica933
Wilkinson929
Amite892
George783
Tishomingo741
Quitman730
Choctaw724
Perry654
Alcorn631
Stone571
Franklin412
Sharkey340
Benton300
Issaquena91
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 41362

Reported Deaths: 983
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson4802152
Montgomery3947103
Mobile3904134
Tuscaloosa218842
Marshall168010
Lee130237
Madison12717
Shelby117623
Morgan10475
Walker90524
Franklin87814
Dallas8689
Elmore86414
Baldwin8289
Etowah70713
DeKalb6945
Butler62328
Chambers61227
Tallapoosa58369
Autauga56012
Russell5190
Unassigned50323
Lauderdale4736
Limestone4660
Lowndes46321
Houston4614
Cullman4354
Pike4175
Colbert3836
Coffee3702
Bullock3679
St. Clair3472
Barbour3452
Covington3437
Escambia3326
Calhoun3225
Hale30621
Marengo30011
Talladega3007
Wilcox2898
Sumter28412
Clarke2726
Dale2680
Jackson2632
Winston2463
Monroe2312
Chilton2282
Blount2261
Pickens2226
Marion21413
Randolph2019
Conecuh1977
Choctaw19512
Bibb1861
Greene1838
Macon1819
Perry1621
Henry1313
Crenshaw1253
Lawrence1050
Washington1047
Cherokee857
Geneva780
Lamar751
Fayette671
Clay622
Coosa581
Cleburne361
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Clear
80° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 84°
Columbus
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 74°
Oxford
Few Clouds
73° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 73°
Starkville
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 72°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather