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: 313166

Reported Deaths: 7228
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21496257
Hinds20294414
Harrison17814309
Rankin13573278
Jackson13411246
Madison10066217
Lee9962173
Jones8364163
Forrest7649152
Lauderdale7181240
Lowndes6370145
Lamar621686
Lafayette6171118
Washington5323133
Bolivar4797132
Oktibbeha461498
Panola4561105
Pearl River4499145
Marshall4397103
Warren4380121
Pontotoc419572
Monroe4100133
Union409076
Neshoba4026176
Lincoln3950110
Hancock377786
Leflore3487125
Sunflower335790
Tate332484
Pike3301105
Scott315373
Alcorn311968
Yazoo310769
Itawamba299477
Copiah296465
Simpson294788
Coahoma294379
Tippah287768
Prentiss279560
Adams269582
Marion268880
Leake266273
Wayne262341
Grenada260386
Covington256381
George246848
Newton246061
Winston226881
Tishomingo225967
Jasper220848
Attala214173
Chickasaw207157
Holmes188673
Clay184754
Stone182033
Tallahatchie178140
Clarke177879
Calhoun170132
Yalobusha163337
Smith162234
Walthall133845
Greene130333
Lawrence128323
Montgomery126742
Noxubee126734
Perry125938
Amite122842
Carroll121728
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis106932
Tunica104826
Claiborne102230
Benton99125
Humphreys96133
Kemper95428
Franklin83623
Quitman80216
Choctaw76118
Wilkinson66930
Jefferson65428
Sharkey50317
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 530325

Reported Deaths: 10966
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson763971520
Mobile40908804
Madison34717503
Tuscaloosa25730452
Montgomery24314588
Shelby23401249
Baldwin21107307
Lee15856171
Calhoun14488314
Morgan14282279
Etowah13819353
Marshall12210223
Houston10557280
Elmore10044205
Limestone9954150
Cullman9649193
St. Clair9644242
Lauderdale9419241
DeKalb8825185
Talladega8214175
Walker7223277
Autauga6918108
Jackson6804112
Blount6651137
Colbert6292134
Coffee5506119
Dale4828111
Russell440638
Chilton4279112
Franklin425582
Covington4118118
Tallapoosa4019152
Escambia393276
Chambers3559123
Dallas3547151
Clarke350861
Marion3113100
Pike310577
Lawrence299898
Winston274072
Bibb260464
Marengo249264
Geneva249077
Pickens234160
Barbour230757
Hale222677
Butler215969
Fayette212062
Henry188744
Cherokee184445
Randolph179941
Monroe177340
Washington167039
Macon158750
Clay156156
Crenshaw152057
Cleburne148741
Lamar141934
Lowndes138653
Wilcox127030
Bullock123041
Conecuh110129
Perry107526
Coosa107128
Sumter104332
Greene92334
Choctaw60424
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