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Megyn Kelly skips 'Today' as questions mount over her future at NBC

Megyn Kelly skips 'Today' as questions mount over her future at NBC

On Tuesday, she suggested it was appropriate for white people to dress in blackface as part of Halloween costume
Megyn Kelly skips 'Today' as questions mount over her future at NBC
Megyn Kelly
Photographer: Shutterstock

On the Tuesday episode of her show, Megyn Kelly made racially insensitive remarks that caused a backlash. On Wednesday, she apologized at length to her NBC studio audience, which rewarded her with a standing ovation. And on Thursday, she did not go on the air.

In place of the live show that had been scheduled, NBC broadcast a previously recorded episode of “Megyn Kelly Today.” “Happy Friday!” Kelly said in the show’s opening moment.

It was the latest sign that Kelly may never return to the NBC airwaves.

The decision to air a rerun of “Megyn Kelly Today” came two days after the host suggested, during an on-air round-table discussion, that it was appropriate for white people to dress in blackface as part of their Halloween costumes.

Kelly apologized in an email to her NBC colleagues hours after making those remarks. On Wednesday, she delivered an on-air apology in the opening minute of her 9 a.m. show — “I’m Megyn Kelly, and I want to begin with two words: I’m sorry.”

But her demonstrations of contrition did little, it seemed, to improve her standing with her colleagues or superiors at the network. At a midday meeting of NBC News staff members on Wednesday, Andrew Lack, the chairman of the news division, did not mention her apologies and said, “There is no other way to put this, but I condemn those remarks.”

Al Roker, a “Today” fixture, said on the show Wednesday that Kelly “owes a bigger apology to folks of color around the country.” The anchor Craig Melvin called her comments “racist and ignorant.”

By the end of the day, Kelly and Creative Artists Agency, the Hollywood talent agency that represented her, had parted ways. In addition, cast members and showrunners from the Netflix drama “House of Cards” had canceled their scheduled appearance on her show.

With no apparent support from her colleagues, her boss or her representatives, Kelly stayed out of the fray on Thursday, leaving her future at the network very much in doubt.

The events of the week were a dramatic shift for Kelly, who left Fox News for NBC in January 2017 in a splashy, high-priced signing. NBC gave her a rich deal through 2020 that was worth a reported $17 million a year and signaled that she would be a centerpiece of the network.

Kelly would host the third hour of NBC’s morning franchise, “Today,” and a Sunday night magazine program that would challenge the CBS stalwart “60 Minutes.” In addition, she would provide a boost to election specials and Olympics coverage. That was the plan, at least.

In the months before she made her sudden jump to NBC, Kelly had broken out of the cable news bubble by challenging Donald J. Trump during a presidential debate and writing critically of the Fox News chairman Roger E. Ailes in her memoir, who left the network after multiple women made allegations of sexual misconduct against him. In her book, “Settle for More,” Kelly reported that Ailes “made sexual comments to me, offers of professional advancement in exchange for sexual favors.”

So here was a high-rated Fox News personality who was not afraid to challenge Trump and seemed in step with the feminist movement that would later fall under the hashtag #MeToo.

At Fox News, Kelly, a lawyer, had distinguished herself over 12 years as a sometimes prosecutorial interviewer who did not shy away from third-rail topics. She was No. 1 in her time slot, sometimes rivaling her colleague, Bill O’Reilly, as the biggest ratings draw in all of cable news.

In moving to a big network, she said that a politics-free morning show was something she was “born to do.” She aspired to become a hybrid of Charlie Rose and Oprah Winfrey, she said.

Kelly started her new venture on May 1, 2017. “First day on the job @NBCNews!” she tweeted, posting a black-and-white photo of herself standing in front of NBC’s peacock at the network’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza headquarters. “On the air in June, but had so much fun meeting new colleagues today. Grateful. Happy.”The events of the week were a dramatic shift for Kelly, who left Fox News for NBC in January 2017 in a splashy, high-priced signing. NBC gave her a rich deal through 2020 that was worth a reported $17 million a year and signaled that she would be a centerpiece of the network.

Kelly would host the third hour of NBC’s morning franchise, “Today,” and a Sunday night magazine program that would challenge the CBS stalwart “60 Minutes.” In addition, she would provide a boost to election specials and Olympics coverage. That was the plan, at least.

In the months before she made her sudden jump to NBC, Kelly had broken out of the cable news bubble by challenging Donald J. Trump during a presidential debate and writing critically of the Fox News chairman Roger E. Ailes in her memoir, who left the network after multiple women made allegations of sexual misconduct against him. In her book, “Settle for More,” Kelly reported that Ailes “made sexual comments to me, offers of professional advancement in exchange for sexual favors.”

So here was a high-rated Fox News personality who was not afraid to challenge Trump and seemed in step with the feminist movement that would later fall under the hashtag #MeToo.

At Fox News, Kelly, a lawyer, had distinguished herself over 12 years as a sometimes prosecutorial interviewer who did not shy away from third-rail topics. She was No. 1 in her time slot, sometimes rivaling her colleague, Bill O’Reilly, as the biggest ratings draw in all of cable news.

In moving to a big network, she said that a politics-free morning show was something she was “born to do.” She aspired to become a hybrid of Charlie Rose and Oprah Winfrey, she said.

Kelly started her new venture on May 1, 2017. “First day on the job @NBCNews!” she tweeted, posting a black-and-white photo of herself standing in front of NBC’s peacock at the network’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza headquarters. “On the air in June, but had so much fun meeting new colleagues today. Grateful. Happy.”

Within a month, Kelly’s Sunday magazine show debuted to middling ratings. And before long Kelly became the scourge of parents of the Sandy Hook shootings when she interviewed the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and posted a photograph of the two smiling together.

NBC quietly announced earlier this year that her Sunday show would return “periodically.”

The morning show, which started in September 2017, would be the source of more headaches. Throughout its run, “Megyn Kelly Today” has trailed the rival program “Live with Kelly and Ryan” by a significant margin.

Kelly’s show even attracted a smaller audience than the cheaper hour of “Today” that preceded her arrival. The previous version, a genial, low-key affair hosted by Al Roker, Dylan Dreyer and Sheinelle Jones, did not depend on the magnetism of a star performer.

In the early episodes of her morning show, Kelly offended several celebrity guests, including Debra Messing, a star of NBC’s “Will & Grace,” who said after an appearance that she would never return to the show. Kelly later got into a dustup with Jane Fonda — by asking her pointedly about her plastic surgery — in what would eventually develop into a monthslong feud.

In an effort to convey a sunnier persona, Kelly danced awkwardly on the air with a “Today” show colleague, Hoda Kotb, to a Pitbull song. The clip of that moment was shared widely on social media (not in a good way).

In October 2017, after the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment stories broke, Ms Kelly’s show became the site of discussions of sexual misconduct in the workplace. The host also did not shy away from reporting aggressively on sexual harassment stories that affected NBC News. Her close examination of Matt Lauer, whom the network ousted last November following sexual misconduct allegations, ruffled feathers within the network.

Early in 2018, there were signs that Kelly and NBC were not on the same page. The network did not assign her as part of the team to cover the Olympics coverage in February, saying it did not want to disrupt her momentum.

After an extended period of pedestrian ratings, Kelly and Lack had a discussion earlier this month — well before the “blackface” remarks — on the possible winding-down of her portion of the “Today” show by the end of the year, according to two people briefed on the conversation. And Kelly has openly told friends in recent weeks about her unhappiness with top executives at NBC News.

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