Megyn Kelly reaches exit agreement after short, strained 18 months at NBC
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NEW YORK — NBC News announced its professional divorce agreement with Megyn Kelly late Friday, ending an association with the former Fox News Channel star whose attempt to become a network morning television star as part of the “Today” show floundered.
Terms were not publicly disclosed, though Page Six reports the former anchor was awarded a $30 million payout to fulfill the $69 million promised in her contract. Kelly was pulled off the air in the second of a three-year contract that reportedly paid her more than $20 million a year. Exit negotiations had dragged for two months over the holidays. According to Page Six, the largest “sticking point” in her official exit from NBC was a non-disclosure agreement, which she eventually signed. The agreement requires her to stay mum about NBC and former colleagues.
Kelly’s been off the air since October after creating a furor by suggesting that it was OK for white people to wear blackface on Halloween. Even before the controversial commentary, her future was considered limited at NBC News.
“The parties have resolved their differences, and Megyn Kelly is no longer an employee of NBC,” the network said in a statement Friday night.
NBC says she’ll be replaced in the third hour of the “Today” show by anchors Craig Melvin, Al Roker, Dylan Dreyer and Sheinelle Jones.
In just 18 months, Kelly became the target of hostile encounters, according to Page Six. An unnamed source at NBC told Page Six that Kelly’s salary, once public, angered other talent at the network. Because of the turmoil, Kelly was never asked to substitute for “Today” or “Nightly News” hosts, wasn’t invited to cover the Olympics and didn’t take part in festive network events, like the Christmas Tree Lighting.
Her tenure was also a failure for NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack, who lured her from Fox News Channel with the type of big-money contract that was once standard in television news but now is less so with financial constrictions and less viewership. In a sense, Kelly was caught in a no-woman’s land: some at NBC were suspicious of her because of the Fox News background, while her former audience at Fox resented her for tough questioning of Donald Trump on the presidential campaign trail.
While at Fox, her accusations of unwanted sexual advances by the network’s late chief executive, Roger Ailes, helped lead to his firing.
She made news at NBC when interviewing women who accused Trump of inappropriate behavior and s poke with accusers of Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, Roy Moore and others, as well as women who say they were harassed on Capitol Hill. The episode with Trump accusers had more than 2.9 million viewers, one of her biggest audiences on the network.
Time magazine, which honored “The Silence Breakers” as its Person of the Year in 2017, cited Kelly as the group’s leader in the entertainment field.
But tough segments on accusations against former NBC anchor Matt Lauer (she said the doubted the disgraced newsman would return to TV because “I know too much that others don’t know”) didn’t win her friends internally, as did her public call for Lack to appoint outside investigators to look into why the network didn’t air Ronan Farrow’s stories about Harvey Weinstein and allowed Farrow to take his story to The New Yorker, where he won a Pulitzer Prize. Both incidents contributed to NBC’s insistence on a non-disclosure agreement, Page Six reports.
When those stories began to fade, Kelly had trouble attracting an audience in the soft-focus world of morning television. She also briefly hosted an evening newsmagazine that didn’t catch on with viewers.
Kelly made a tearful apology to viewers following her blackface comments, but it proved to be her last appearance on NBC News.
“What is racist?” she said on the show. “Truly, you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface on Halloween or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid, that was OK, as long as you were dressing up as a character.”
Critics accused her of ignoring the ugly history of minstrel shows and movies in which whites applied blackface to mock blacks.
It’s not immediately clear what’s next for Kelly, but she says she plans to cover the 2020 election, possibly making her return to TV news sooner, according to Page Six. With no non-compete clause in her exit agreement, Kelly is free to seek other television work if she wants.