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Megyn Kelly leaves NBC with all of her $69 million contract intact

Two years after she signed with the network amid much fanfare, Megyn Kelly and NBC have officially parted wa...

Posted: Jan 13, 2019 9:16 AM
Updated: Jan 13, 2019 9:16 AM

Two years after she signed with the network amid much fanfare, Megyn Kelly and NBC have officially parted ways.

The split was announced on Friday ending a drawn-out and acrimonious exit that was put in motion in the fall after Kelly defended Halloween costumes that incorporate blackface during a segment on her 9 a.m. talk show.

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"The parties have resolved their differences, and Megyn Kelly is no longer an employee of NBC," the network said Friday night.

Talks about ending "Megyn Kelly Today" started before the blackface remarks, due to underperforming ratings and growing tensions between Kelly and NBC executives. But the Halloween controversy sealed her fate, according to sources familiar with the matter. Her talk show was cancelled within days, and her lawyer began negotiating the terms of her exit.

Kelly is halfway through a three-year contract worth a total of $69 million -- an eye-popping sum even by the inflated standards of television news.

Bowing to the terms of the contract, NBC will pay Kelly the remaining sum of money, believed to total about $30 million, two of the sources said.

Kelly will be subject to an industry standard nondisparagement clause, limiting what she can say about her time at NBC and her interactions with NBC executives. Television contracts typically include language to protect both sides in the event of an ugly breakup.

But representatives for the host and the network declined to comment on the exact terms of her exit.

Kelly is not believed to be subject to any "noncompete" clause, which means that in theory she can join another network right away, the sources said.

But Kelly does not currently have an agent, and there is no indication that she has another job lined up.

When approached by celebrity photographers on the street in New York City on Thursday, and asked "will we see you on TV this year," Kelly said. "You will definitely see me back on."

A representative for Kelly declined to comment further.

Friday's announcement marks a premature end to a partnership that ultimately failed to elevate the anchor's stature and the network's ratings. And the hostility surrounding her departure stands in sharp contrast to the optimism that greeted her arrival at NBC in January 2017.

After 12 years at Fox News, Kelly was one of the most sought-after stars in the television news world, drawing interest from a number of networks. Fox reportedly offered her a new contract worth more than $20 million a year, but Kelly was eager to shed the combative style she honed at the conservative network.

"Barbara Walters has retired," Kelly told Variety in 2015, when she was still at Fox. "Oprah has moved to the OWN network and is doing a different thing now. So why not me?"

At NBC, Kelly hoped she would be able to fulfill the softer role she had long envisioned for herself. The network had ambitious plans for Kelly, handing her hosting duties for a Sunday evening news magazine and the 9 a.m. hour of the "Today" show. But the marriage was awkward from the jump.

"Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly" was poorly received and ended after a short run in the summer of 2017. And "Megyn Kelly Today" was defined by disappointing ratings and awkward moments, with the host sometimes seeming ill-suited for the bubbly world of morning television.

Kelly won plaudits for aggressively covering cases of sexual misconduct when the #MeToo movement became an international story in late 2017.

But her coverage -- especially of the case involving "Today" show co-host Matt Lauer -- rankled some of her colleagues.

This contributed to tensions between Kelly and NBC executives, including NBC News chair Andy Lack, who invested tens of millions of dollars in her hiring.

Last September, Kelly publicly contradicted part of Lack's account about why NBC opted not to air Ronan Farrow's reporting about Harvey Weinstein.

By that point, there were already questions about how much longer Kelly's 9 a.m. show would last. She had few allies inside NBC, and more than a few detractors.

Her lowest moment came on October 23, when she led an on-air discussion about offensive Halloween costumes.

Kelly said it was acceptable when she was a kid to don black face "as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character." And she defended a reality TV star who took heat last year for dressing up as Diana Ross.

"And I don't know, I felt like who doesn't love Diana Ross?" Kelly said. "She wants to look like Diana Ross for one day. I don't know how, like, that got racist on Halloween."

The backlash to Kelly was swift and immediate, exceeding the outrage she generated for her remarks years ago about Santa's race. Kelly apologized to her staff that afternoon. And she apologized on her show the following day, saying "the country feels so divided and I have no wish to add to that pain and offense."

Many of her "Today" show colleagues were not satisfied. Kelly drew forceful on-air denunciations from Al Roker and Craig Melvin, two African-American hosts on "Today." And Lack condemned Kelly's comments at a town hall, a clear sign that she had lost the support of the executive who helped woo her to the network.

She didn't appear on the network again. Three days after her blackface remarks on air, NBC announced that it had canceled "Megyn Kelly Today."

Talks about the terms of her exit soon turned contentious, with Kelly's attorney Bryan Freedman accusing Lack of leaking details about the negotiations. NBC fired back, saying the network had respected the confidentiality of the process while Freedman has "repeatedly commented to the media throughout the negotiations."

Both sides then reached a quiet resolution, which was announced on Friday night.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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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
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Copiah296065
Simpson294488
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Prentiss279360
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George246748
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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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