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Was Megyn Kelly always doomed at NBC?

Megyn Kelly is heading to the exit at NBC. But did she ever have a chance trying to transform her Fox News persona in today's stratified media climate?

Posted: Jan 13, 2019 8:21 PM
Updated: Jan 13, 2019 8:34 PM

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.

"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

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 482902

Reported Deaths: 9425
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison33063488
Hinds31021589
DeSoto30610358
Jackson23687348
Rankin21340370
Lee14909220
Madison14166271
Jones13404227
Forrest13160240
Lauderdale11601305
Lowndes10443176
Lamar10214130
Pearl River9098221
Lafayette8241137
Hancock7514112
Washington7102150
Oktibbeha6964124
Monroe6514164
Neshoba6475201
Warren6464164
Pontotoc630393
Panola6250126
Marshall6126123
Bolivar6115144
Union574186
Pike5613136
Alcorn537290
Lincoln5303131
George471472
Scott459196
Leflore4476140
Prentiss446779
Tippah446480
Itawamba4444100
Adams4416116
Tate4394101
Simpson4335112
Wayne433066
Copiah431787
Yazoo423386
Covington415792
Sunflower4148104
Marion4099104
Leake397586
Coahoma3957100
Newton370875
Grenada3556104
Stone350860
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Attala325387
Jasper314162
Winston304691
Clay296473
Chickasaw287065
Clarke282190
Calhoun266141
Holmes262187
Smith250649
Yalobusha221047
Tallahatchie220450
Walthall211058
Greene209045
Lawrence206833
Perry199953
Amite198452
Webster196542
Noxubee178939
Montgomery172454
Jefferson Davis168342
Carroll162137
Tunica153334
Benton142535
Kemper138640
Choctaw127026
Claiborne126834
Humphreys126637
Franklin116728
Quitman103926
Wilkinson101936
Jefferson91333
Sharkey63020
Issaquena1926
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 789054

Reported Deaths: 14022
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1115991765
Mobile708511234
Madison49865633
Shelby36274315
Baldwin36242495
Tuscaloosa33931548
Montgomery33190678
Lee22680220
Calhoun21211410
Morgan19816335
Etowah19300462
Marshall17680274
Houston16823386
St. Clair15442305
Cullman14602258
Limestone14581188
Elmore14480264
Lauderdale13520281
Talladega12958236
DeKalb12199237
Walker10588330
Blount9720157
Autauga9667137
Jackson9385158
Coffee8882175
Dale8609173
Colbert8534184
Tallapoosa6673181
Escambia6591121
Covington6452167
Chilton6385144
Russell607255
Franklin5795101
Chambers5416134
Marion4800120
Dallas4705189
Clarke463279
Pike462397
Geneva4413117
Winston425895
Lawrence4117108
Bibb409381
Barbour347270
Marengo326285
Monroe320053
Butler318290
Randolph305956
Pickens305274
Henry301858
Hale292685
Cherokee289855
Fayette279673
Washington245448
Crenshaw238470
Cleburne235851
Clay228565
Macon220158
Lamar197743
Conecuh182046
Lowndes170758
Coosa170235
Wilcox159736
Bullock149243
Perry136537
Sumter124536
Greene121443
Choctaw73427
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