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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.

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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.

Cases: 338079

Reported Deaths: 7523
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds23409440
DeSoto23069280
Harrison20064328
Rankin15119290
Jackson14743251
Madison10806227
Lee10568179
Jones8864169
Forrest8408159
Lauderdale7684243
Lowndes6917151
Lamar683789
Lafayette6502124
Washington5551139
Pearl River5060150
Bolivar4923134
Oktibbeha484798
Panola4739112
Warren4690127
Marshall4670106
Pontotoc442873
Monroe4293137
Union429179
Neshoba4232181
Hancock417788
Lincoln4148116
Pike3605113
Leflore3587125
Tate351488
Alcorn346474
Sunflower344994
Adams338488
Scott336676
Yazoo335673
Simpson319290
Copiah319068
Itawamba312480
Coahoma311585
Tippah300568
Prentiss295063
Covington287183
Marion281780
Leake281575
Wayne274643
Grenada267588
George266251
Newton258964
Tishomingo238070
Winston236284
Jasper227548
Attala223373
Stone219437
Chickasaw217560
Holmes197674
Clay194654
Clarke184480
Tallahatchie182742
Calhoun179432
Smith177535
Yalobusha170240
Walthall144448
Lawrence140026
Greene137634
Amite135643
Noxubee134235
Perry132438
Montgomery131544
Carroll125431
Webster119132
Jefferson Davis114234
Tunica113227
Benton105925
Claiborne104831
Kemper101429
Humphreys99833
Franklin86723
Quitman84319
Choctaw81819
Wilkinson76532
Jefferson70428
Sharkey51618
Issaquena1736
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 574737

Reported Deaths: 11492
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson839571589
Mobile46611857
Madison36938532
Tuscaloosa26841465
Shelby26769255
Montgomery25853624
Baldwin24213326
Lee16897181
Calhoun15210332
Morgan14990289
Etowah14721369
Marshall12855235
Houston11661292
Elmore10727217
St. Clair10587250
Limestone10535158
Cullman10323204
Lauderdale10044253
DeKalb9335191
Talladega8797187
Walker7659286
Autauga7456114
Jackson7295117
Blount7233139
Colbert6614142
Coffee6117131
Dale5393117
Russell467742
Chilton4666117
Covington4623125
Franklin447281
Tallapoosa4420157
Escambia425282
Chambers3880125
Dallas3707163
Clarke366462
Marion3413106
Pike326979
Lawrence3211101
Winston293972
Bibb282965
Geneva274283
Marengo259067
Barbour245161
Pickens239662
Butler237672
Hale232378
Fayette225064
Henry206645
Randolph196144
Monroe195041
Cherokee194548
Washington179339
Macon168352
Crenshaw165058
Clay163659
Cleburne159945
Lamar149738
Lowndes144854
Wilcox129831
Bullock126042
Conecuh119530
Coosa116729
Perry109928
Sumter108732
Greene98336
Choctaw63925
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Thursday will be another very hot and very humid day across Mississippi and Alabama. Many areas will be well above 100 degrees with the heat index, some even as high as 120 degrees in the Delta of Mississippi.
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