NBC cancels Megyn Kelly's show after blackface controversy

2018-10-27 11:01
Megyn Kelly.

New York — Megyn Kelly, the former Fox News Channel personality who made a rocky transition to softer morning news at NBC, was ousted Friday from her Today program after her controversial on-air comments about blackface.

Megyn Kelly Today is not returning, NBC News said in a statement. The fourth hour of NBC's venerable Today franchise that Kelly's show occupied will be hosted by other co-anchors from the show beginning next week, the network said.

NBC didn't address the status of Kelly or her multimillion-contract with the network.

Negotiations are ongoing regarding Kelly's exit from NBC, a person familiar with the situation said Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorised to discuss the issue publicly.

The cancellation came four days after Kelly provoked a firestorm of criticism for asking on air why dressing up in blackface for a Halloween costume is wrong. Social media condemnation was swift, and Kelly apologised to fellow NBC staffers later in the day and made a tearful apology on her show Wednesday

Kelly did not host new episodes of Megyn Kelly Today as scheduled on Thursday and Friday mornings. She is in the middle of the second year of a three-year contract, which reportedly pays her more than $20m a year.

Kelly, 47, made her debut as NBC morning TV host on 25 September, 2017, taking over the 9 a.m. slot of Today and saying she wanted viewers "to have a laugh with us, a smile, sometimes a tear and maybe a little hope to start your day." She did cooking demonstrations and explored emotional topics.


She largely floundered with that soft-news focus, and a pair of awkward and hostile interviews with Hollywood figures Jane Fonda and Debra Messing backfired with bad publicity. Kelly briefly found more of a purpose with the eruption of the #MeToo movement.

She made news when interviewing women who accused Trump of inappropriate behaviour and spoke with accusers of Harvey Weinstein, Brett Ratner, Bill O'Reilly, Roy Moore and Mark Halperin, as well as women who allege they were harassed on Capitol Hill.

Time magazine, which honoured The Silence Breakers as its Person of the Year, cited Kelly as its leader in the entertainment field. The episode with Trump accusers had more than 2.9 million viewers, one of her biggest audiences.

But strains continued behind the scenes. Kelly last month publicly called for NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack to appoint outside investigators to look into why the network didn't air Ronan Farrow's stories about disgraced Hollywood executive Weinstein and allowed Farrow to take the material to the New Yorker.

And her ratings have been consistently down from what Today garnered in the 9 a.m. hour before Kelly came on board. In its first year, Kelly's show averaged 2.4 million viewers a day, a drop of 400 000 viewers from the year before.

The latest controversy may have tipped the balance. Both NBC's Nightly News and Today did stories on her blackface comment, and weatherman Al Roker said Kelly "owes a big apology to people of color across the country."

A former corporate defense attorney, Kelly made her name at Fox News discussing politics in prime time. During the first GOP debate in 2015, she asked Trump about calling women "fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals." Trump later complained about her questions, saying, "You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever."

Although Kelly may have attempted a fresh start at NBC, she couldn't always escape her baggage.

Many of her former Fox News Channel viewers were upset by her perceived disloyalty in leaving and her clashes with Trump during the campaign. At the same time, her former association with Fox caused some NBC colleagues and viewers to regard her with suspicion.

While at Fox, Kelly cultivated a reputation for toughness and a willingness to challenge conservative orthodoxy. Her private testimony about former Fox News chief executive Roger Ailes' unwanted sexual advances a decade ago helped lead to Ailes' firing.

She also created controversy with her stance on race. In 2013, while an anchor at Fox, Kelly addressed the ethnicity of Santa Claus by saying: "For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white."

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