Megyn Kelly tells Deadline she expects Russian leader Vladimir Putin to make headlines when she moderates a session with him at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg next month. But she insists she does not yet know if she will get one-on-one time with Putin when she moderates that event, immediately before the June 4 launch of her NBC Sunday newsmag, Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly.
“We’ve asked, like everybody else,” she said coyly, adding, “I’m looking at it as, I have a one-on-one with him on that stage and will make good use of it.”
Kelly has been out of the spotlight since leaving Fox News Channel last year; she maintains she has not missed it. “I’m enjoying being out of the melee,” she said, reminding, in case we’d forgotten, “My life was a little crazy for a year or two prior to my departure from Fox.”
“One of the things I learned about myself: I really don’t want to cover all-politics,” Kelly said of her time anchoring the 9 PM hour at FNC and moderating its various election-cycle debates. “I like politics, enjoy covering it. But it isn’t who I am, not what I want to do full-time.”
“I look at Tucker Carlson. He loves it. He starts talking and his face lights up and it’s exactly the right job for him and I’m happy for him. But it’s not who I am,” Kelly says of the FNC talent who took over her timeslot upon her departure, improving on her ratings.
“Yes, we will have red meat on both shows,” she says of her new career at NBC, “but they’re not going to be only red meat.”
That second show is the 9 AM hour of Today, formerly hosted by Billy Bush until he got sacked after the release of that Access Hollywood tape in which he giggled and encouraged as Donald Trump boasted about being so famous he could grope women with impunity. First Lady Melania Trump blamed Bush for the hot-mic tape, saying he egged on her husband.
Though she takes over as host in the fall, Kelly insisted there has yet to be a decision as to whether that 9 AM hour will then continue to be branded Today. “I think we’re talking about that,” she said when asked. Then she added, “I’m not sure I’m at liberty to talk about Monday through Friday, but we will – when the time is right.” By that, she said, she means in July or August. For now, the journalist said, she and NBC News will take only questions about her new Sunday show, which is debuting in 60 Minutes’ timeslot while that show is in mostly repeats.
“We have no expectation of NBC beating 60 Minutes,” Kelly said, modestly. “NBC has a nice history of patience with new shows.”
“My goal is to put on a great show, deliver news in way that is accessible for regular Americans of all stripes. And don’t talk down to your audience,” she advised.
“I never talk down to my audience,” Kelly assured. “And I don’t believe you have to…take yourself too seriously because you’re doing a newsmagazine. There is room for humor and irreverence. And room for emotion,” she said, promising viewers will see her tears on the new program, “which will be a change from The Kelly File.”
Speaking of emotions, we asked her thoughts on FNC’s recent ratings stumbles and the sudden exit of its primetime star Bill O’Reilly in the wake of a New York Times report on the dollars spent by FNC and O’Reilly responding to harassment allegations against him over the years.
“My thought on Bill is ‘no comment’,” Kelly responded.
“My thought on Fox [News] and its ratings, and all that, is that it’s Fox in a rebuilding year. I think they have 20 years of history to suggest they’re a smart bet and they know how to put points on the board. So they’re struggling now, and they know that. But they’ve got a lot of great journalists at Fox News, and they’re earnest, and they’ll double down and figure it out and be just fine.
Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly premieres Sunday, June 4 at 7 PM ET, 6 PM CT. It is scheduled to run through the summer, leaving NBC’s schedule when football season kicks off, and returning next year.
Regular NBC News correspondents to be featured on the program include Cynthia McFadden, Harry Smith, Kate Snow, Craig Melvin, Jacob Soboroff, Keith Morrison and Josh Mankiewicz. In the debut edition, Smith travels to Kenya with Faye Cuevas, a Lt. Colonel in the US Air Force reserve who served as an intelligence officer in the Middle East, and is using tools from the war on terror to stop elephant poachers in Africa. She moved to Kenya with her three small children, and is organizing a community-based fight for the elephants led by the women of Kenya.
David Corvo is senior exec producer and Liz Cole is exec producer.