Megyn Kelly was never a fit for NBC. The network missed that

Some things don't go together: brussels sprouts and bubblegum; cats and canaries; Megyn Kelly and NBC News....

Posted: Oct 31, 2018 11:03 PM
Updated: Oct 31, 2018 11:03 PM

Some things don't go together: brussels sprouts and bubblegum; cats and canaries; Megyn Kelly and NBC News.

In each of those cases the mismatched mix should be obvious, but somehow NBC missed the telltale signs of how off and off-putting the combination of Kelly's views, especially on race relations, would be with NBC's own, more conventional positions. The network's top news executive, Andrew Lack, decided to woo Kelly away from her Fox News prime time show almost two years ago, and insert her in a starring role in the 9 a.m. timeslot for his network's long-running hit, the Today show.

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Lack, who was hardly alone in media circles in pursuing Kelly, may have been blinded by a familiar malady of television executives: glamour glare. That's the effect that sometimes emanates from a glowing-hot on-air talent. It can lead to temporary loss of vision.

Events of recent months, especially of the past week, seem to indicate vision has been restored, though the cost of the fix — $69 million — might be deemed a tad pricey. That's not great news for Lack, it's fair to assume.

The denouement of the drama that has surrounded Kelly since the day she arrived at NBC seems to be upon us. The network formally canceled her show Friday with the expectation that she will have no further role at the network.

The experiment put in place by Lack — having Kelly, who had been icily appealing on Fox News as a solo act, try to emulate Oprah Winfrey by playing warm and wise with a studio audience — moved quickly from misbegotten to miserable. Ratings were tepid to worse, critical evaluation was scathing, internal dissension at NBC News over the move was widespread, and then there were those moments where fingernails met blackboards: comments that sounded like body shaming; guests that came away alienated (Jane Fonda, Debra Messing); the persistent awkwardness in performance; and the occasional whiff of what might kindly be labeled racial insensitivity.

The past week brought intense focus on Kelly's tone-deaf dismissal as "politically correct" of the idea that African Americans take offense at white people in blackface. But she had a documented history of such insensitivity, having, during her Fox News days, accused some in the black community of a "thug mentality."

And, of course there was her famous insistence that Santa Claus should never be portrayed by a black performer because he is — though fictional — definitively white. You might be able to make a fair case that it could be a risk to hire anyone who cares that much about the race of Santa Claus.

NBC apparently shrugged off those concerns when it landed Kelly at what has been reported to be $23 million a year. The shrug included the decision to have her replace two black anchors, Tamron Hall and Al Roker, who were making far less money (and, as things have worked out, were drawing better ratings).

Lack certainly has had a long and distinguished career in news, and retains high cards in his hand, including increasing ratings at MSNBC as well as the status of Today and NBC Nightly News, all of which he has played well. But for a time he seemed seduced by the idea of stretching the appeal of NBC News to followers of the new regime in Washington. Thus Hugh Hewitt, a conservative radio host, got a show on MSNBC, by then established as a liberal stronghold, and Megyn Kelly, whose views only occasionally veered away from the usual Fox News right-tilted narrative, moved into what had been the neutral territory of Today's 9 a.m. hour.

Both those gambits have now foundered. At least Hewitt's sour note in MSNBC's otherwise left-leaning musical score didn't involve a lottery-ticket payoff.

Just how bad was the mistake of hiring Megyn Kelly? If it involves loud discord within the news division staff, low ratings, racially charged remarks, and a check that could fund the entire roster of a small-market baseball team, it likely qualifies as a mistake with little chance of going unnoticed.

If past is prologue, and it usually is in the television business, all of that could play a hand in future decisions about the leadership at NBC News.

It probably doesn't help that another recent NBC News talent decision has not worked out well either. Not too long after hiring Kelly, Lack made the call to let Ronan Farrow go — just before his work won numerous prizes, including a Pulitzer for his reporting on the sexual improprieties of numerous media figures.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 312926

Reported Deaths: 7226
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21474257
Hinds20271414
Harrison17796309
Rankin13561278
Jackson13404246
Madison10062217
Lee9961173
Jones8364163
Forrest7644152
Lauderdale7178240
Lowndes6366144
Lamar621286
Lafayette6168118
Washington5322133
Bolivar4796132
Oktibbeha461198
Panola4556105
Pearl River4494145
Marshall4396103
Warren4376121
Pontotoc419372
Monroe4094133
Union408876
Neshoba4024176
Lincoln3947110
Hancock377086
Leflore3487125
Sunflower335790
Tate332384
Pike3294105
Scott315273
Alcorn311568
Yazoo310669
Itawamba299377
Copiah296065
Simpson294488
Coahoma294279
Tippah287668
Prentiss279360
Marion268780
Adams266082
Leake265573
Wayne262341
Grenada260186
Covington256381
George246748
Newton245961
Winston226881
Tishomingo225567
Jasper220848
Attala214173
Chickasaw207157
Holmes188673
Clay184754
Stone181833
Tallahatchie178140
Clarke177879
Calhoun169832
Yalobusha163336
Smith162234
Walthall133845
Greene130333
Lawrence128323
Montgomery126742
Noxubee126734
Perry125838
Amite122842
Carroll121728
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis106932
Tunica104726
Claiborne102230
Benton99025
Humphreys96133
Kemper95328
Franklin83423
Quitman80016
Choctaw76018
Wilkinson66930
Jefferson65428
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 530011

Reported Deaths: 10946
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson763591519
Mobile40875804
Madison34676503
Tuscaloosa25717451
Montgomery24308585
Shelby23389248
Baldwin21093307
Lee15844169
Calhoun14481313
Morgan14281279
Etowah13813353
Marshall12203222
Houston10553280
Elmore10036205
Limestone9952150
Cullman9647193
St. Clair9634239
Lauderdale9413241
DeKalb8821185
Talladega8210175
Walker7222277
Autauga6914108
Jackson6803111
Blount6645136
Colbert6291134
Coffee5503118
Dale4826111
Russell440038
Chilton4263111
Franklin425482
Covington4120117
Tallapoosa4006152
Escambia393276
Chambers3559123
Dallas3544151
Clarke350861
Marion3111100
Pike310177
Lawrence299898
Winston273772
Bibb260463
Marengo249164
Geneva248777
Pickens233760
Barbour230757
Hale222577
Butler215869
Fayette212062
Henry188744
Cherokee184345
Randolph179941
Monroe177040
Washington167039
Macon158650
Clay155956
Crenshaw151957
Cleburne148741
Lamar141834
Lowndes138553
Wilcox127029
Bullock123041
Conecuh110129
Perry107526
Coosa107128
Sumter104332
Greene92334
Choctaw60424
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