Megyn Kelly & NBC Reach Official Exit Deal; Blackface Comments Initiated End

By Dominic Patten, Lisa de Moraes

Megyn Kelly NBC News
Shutterstock/NBC News

Nearly three months after NBC News cancelled Megyn Kelly Today in the wake of the host’s on-air Halloween blackface defense  the Andy Lack-run network division has finally reached an agreement with the former Fox News superstar for her to officially walk out the door.

“The parties have resolved their differences, and Megyn Kelly is no longer an employee of NBC,” said the company in a statement this evening.

As soon as talks between her reps and NBC started in late October, Kelly’s formal exit from the News division of the Comcast-owned network became a matter of when and how –  not if.

The details of the deal look to be held close to the Comcast-owned division’s  chest and Team Megyn too. However, it does seem that Kelly reaped all of the remaining millions on her $69 million dollar three year contract and there are no limitations on where she can work next, we hear. The confidentiality and disparagement aspects of the agreement are pretty standard corporate stuff As for what Kelly may eventually have to say about her time at NBC, there seem to be no current plans for the best selling Settle For More author to write a book or a similar public display.

Not that there wouldn’t be ample material for all parties.

Add to the repeated on-air stumbles, Kelly’s ratings were generally not good and the former Fox News Channel primetime star never was a great fit on the broadcaster despite the big bucks and big expectation contract she secured. Long seen as a problem looking for a solution, Kelly’s NBC exit was precipitated when she invited an all-white panel on her show in the fall to discuss a college trying to crack down on Halloween costumes it deemed offensive.

In what became the last straw for NBC News, during the October 23 segment 47-year old Kelly stunned and offended many when she claimed wearing blackface costumes to depict a character were okay when she was growing up. An on-air apology the next day did little to sooth the situation and Kelly’s show went into repeats for the rest of that week.

Soon after, NBC News had announced “Megyn Kelly Today is not returning,”  after previously yanking her off the air. Today show reported the division was in talks with her reps about her  “imminent departure” just one year into her three-year $69M contract with the company.

NBC News chief Andy Lack, a seasoned campaigner at surviving talent disasters, yanked her off the air and opened a town hall meeting with his staff announcing “I condemn those remarks; there is no place on our air or in this workplace for them,” signaling she would not recover, despite her apology to staff and on-air mea culpa. Lack’s remarks made their way to the media.

In the week since her show was canned, Today’s third-hour ratings jumped 5% in total viewers and upticked in female demos, despite week-to-week ratings declines in the mothership show that serves as its lead-in.

Kelly’s LA-based lawyer Bryan Freedman said in a statement at the time that his client “remains an employee of NBC News and discussions about next steps are continuing.”

Kelly’s on-air debacle may have also cost her a new gig at her old network. Fox consistently responded to queries about possible talks with its former primetime star by saying how happy they are with the current Fox News Channel lineup and offered no public words of encouragement for Kelly to return.

Still, some pundits think Kelly may still wind up there eventually in some capacity, though her path back is not so simple nor so clear as it had been a few months ago before being taken off the air on NBC. Kelly has some “serious image rehab work to do” before even Fox News would have her back, one talking head said.
To that end, Kelly kept a partial public profile in the first few weeks after being taken off the air on NBC. The former host has been tweeted robustly on Midterms Election Night when she was supposed to have been part of NBC News’s on-air team. Kelly has also continued to weigh in on social media about the protesters outside FNC host Tucker Carlson’s DC home in early November, as well as the horrific Thousand Oaks mass shooting.
In recent days, as she has made a series of posts on social media over the holidays, Kelly told a streetside camera crew in NYC that “you’ll definitely see me back on” TV sometime soon-ish.

However, what ever form or outlet that return takes, the fact remains that former Fox News take-no-prisoners interviewer had simply been a bad fit in the hug-it-out world of broadcast morning “news.” The blackface remark was not her first attack of foot-in mouth as she tried to build her new brand at NBC News ; it was just the one that ended Lack’s experiment with attracting more fly-over country viewers with the conservative cable news megastar.

That experiment began going awry on Day 1 when Kelly asked a superfan of Will & Grace, whose cast members were her guest that day, “Is it true you became a lawyer, and you became gay, because of Will?” prompting star Debra Messing to express her “dismay.”

As things went deeper south, and Kelly faced reports that the show was having trouble booking A-list guests, she began booking victims of sexual misconduct and assault, as articles by the New York Times and Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker broke details.

The tactic helped her hour’s ratings, but also seemed to be setting up a narrative In which Kelly is on the outs at NBC News over aggressive coverage of the #MeToo movement.

And, in what had seemed to be a Hail Mary pass to distract people from Kelly’s on-air defense of blackface and try to frame her ouster as another #MeToo moment at NBC News, Kelly’s team at one point reportedly demanded Ronan Farrow attend a meeting with network execs to discuss Kelly’s future – an attendance that never occurred.

No official word who will take over Kelly’s 9 PM slot but at least one Today regular put her name out there earlier this week, at least online:

Note that long time Today weatherman, Kelly critic and former 9 AM frontman  Al Roker retweeted Dreyer’s pic …read into that what you will.

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