Today hosts Hoda Kotb, Craig Melvin, Al Roker, and Savannah Guthrie moved seamlessly into the third hour of the show this morning, after NBC announced Friday it had cancelled Megyn Kelly Today in the wake of Kelly’s defense of blackface Halloween costumes.
“Today, as you know, we are starting a new chapter in the third hour of our show,” Kotb said at 9 AM. “As it evolves, we want you to know the entire Today family will continue to bring you informative and important stories, just as we always have.”
And Jenna Bush Hager, who had been part of the all-white panel to whom Kelly addressed her career-stomping Halloween costume comments, re-appeared Monday in the hour to introduce another Halloween walk-up segment – this one, however, the kind of “showing you the scariest places in the country” puffery morning-show viewers expect. Monday’s segment looked at the Queen Mary, in Long Beach, California.
Bush Hager stepped in for Kotb during Monday’s 9 AM Today broadcast.
The announcement of Kelly’s formal exit from NBC News altogether is expected this week, though both sides were radio silent over the weekend after her LA-based lawyer Bryan Freedman on Friday issued a statement reminding, “Megyn remains an employee of NBC News and discussions about next steps are continuing.”
Over the weekend, pundits pondered how difficult it would be for Kelly to salvage an NBC News career after describing rejection of Halloween blackface as “pc” and insisting it had been “okay” when she was in school.
Pointing pundits in that direction, NBC News over the weekend published an op-ed written by students of the high school Kelly attended, who refuted her claim with the headline:
“Megyn Kelly went to our high school and, no, blackface wasn’t ‘OK’ here when she was a kid.”
Still, pundits similarly predicted Brian Williams could not survive at NBC News when the division yanked him from Nightly News after revelations he had fabricated reports of coming under fire in a military chopper in Iraq in 2003. Williams was put on ice for six months to atone for his factual sins, and to wait out the media mob calling for his tar and feathering, after which he was brought back at 11 PM on MSNBC.
NBC News chief Andy Lack’s future is now being debated, being the news exec who had emerged “victorious” during a spirited competition to sign Kelly as she charmed the media landscape while promoting her autobiography Settle For More.
Now Lack’s negotiating his way out of a failed $69M gambit to turn the steely Fox News Channel star into a hug-able NBC morning star.
NBC News received a pre-Halloween boo last week when the primetime star, who had once insisted Santa had to be white, dismissed as “politically correct” the notion African Americans would take offense at blackface Halloween costumes.
She said it on air. She also said it on the third hour of the Today franchise, where she had replaced African American hosts Tamron Hall and Al Roker, who drew better ratings than did Kelly.
But Kelly isn’t Lack’s only failed effort to attract more right-leaning viewers to NBC News. In June, conservative radio commentator Hugh Hewitt announced the end of his self-titled MSNBC show after one year; he remains a contributor to Meet the Press.
Kelly’s also not Lack’s only recent high-profile embarrassment. Shortly after her hire, NBC News said so-long to Ronan Farrow, who said the news division declined to broadcast his report on allegations against Hollywood mega-producer Harvey Weinstein. Farrow decamped for New Yorker with his reporting, which won him a Pulitzer.
Last Tuesday, Kelly referenced her hometown in upstate New York, when she said, “You do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface for Halloween, or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid, that was OK just as long as you were dressing as a character.”
Fired back current students at her high school: “Those comments definitely do not speak to who we are in Bethlehem or at Bethlehem Central High School, from which she graduated in 1988.”
“Blackface is not acceptable anywhere in America, and it is not acceptable in our town,” they wrote in the piece published by NBC News.
“We weren’t alive when Megyn was in high school but, in the recollection of many of our parents who grew up around here, it was not acceptable even in the 1980s town that she knew,” the local students insisted.
They noted the town’s demographic makeup – 92% white, 2.5% African American, 3.2% Asian American and 2.7% Latino – which they said has created “real blind spots.” A local newspaper’s records show “minstrel shows were performed as fundraisers in our elementary school gym as late as 1960 (albeit a decade before Megyn was born),” the students said, by way of offering explanation for Kelly’s career-nuking comment in 2018.