Megyn Kelly’s NBC morning show has ended. The network announced Friday that other “Today” show anchors will replace her in the 9 a.m. hour, bringing an end to “Megyn Kelly Today.” The cancellation follows months of the host’s missteps, awkward moments and a racially insensitive defense of blackface Halloween costumes.
Though the impetus for the end of her show was her comments about blackface, the seeds of its cancellation were planted months earlier. By August, nearing the one-year anniversary of the show, Kelly knew that “Megyn Kelly Today” wasn’t working, and she had started to make plans about her future. She had already had a conversation that summer with NBC News Chairman Andy Lack about the problems with the show.
Given that she could not move to MSNBC — she didn’t want to go there and the left-leaning MSNBC audience would not accept her — the options at NBC News were limited.
She consulted with advisers about how to deal with her differences with NBC, according to two people familiar with her discussions. It wasn’t long before Kelly was calling on the air for an external investigation into NBC News’s handling of Ronan Farrow’s reporting into Harvey Weinstein, a move that didn’t win her many friends inside the building.
Kelly, once a star at Fox News, had long nurtured ambitions of moving out of the conservative news bubble and into the top tier of mainstream broadcast personalities, with aspirations of becoming a mix of Oprah Winfrey and Charlie Rose.
She once said she wanted to “help people,” just as Oprah had. Her book title suggested she wanted to “settle for more.” She debuted her softer-edged NBC morning show “Megyn Kelly Today” by saying she was “kind of done with politics for now.”
But her rocky transition to morning news showed just how difficult it is to separate one’s identity from the Fox News brand.
The end of her show was announced in a tweet by NBC News. People close to the matter said Thursday that Kelly’s lawyers and NBC brass planned to meet today to hash out the details of their relationship. NBC lured Kelly from Fox News early last year with a three-year, $69 million contract.
Kelly’s future with NBC remains uncertain. “Megyn remains an employee of NBC News and discussions about next steps are continuing,” her attorney Bryan Freedman said in a statement.
She is not welcome back at her former home, Fox News, which she left on sour terms.
“We are extremely happy with our entire lineup,” said a Fox News spokesman. Kelly burned bridges at Fox after she publicly discussed sexual harassment she said she faced from the late Roger Ailes, the channel’s co-founder.
In some corners, Fox News insiders were enjoying a certain schadenfreude in Kelly’s NBC failure. Darla Shine, the wife of White House deputy chief of staff Bill Shine — a former Fox News executive, gleefully noted Kelly’s troubles by tweeting a story that noted Kelly was not appearing on her show for the rest of the week, along with the comment that: “This is what happens when you tilt the universe with lies @Megynkelly. . . . You helped perpetuate lies against those who helped you. Only the truth will set you free!”
Shine, whose husband was a longtime deputy to Ailes, had also lashed out at Kelly when she first said Ailes sexually harassed her.
Some staffers at NBC were skeptical of Kelly when news broke that she would leave Fox for their network. Others were doubtful she could make the transition from a hard-edge cable news host to the lighter fare of a morning show.
It was in the casual banter segment of “Megyn Kelly Today” that she ran into trouble this week, when she asked her all-white panel of guests: “What is racist?”
“Truly, you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface for Halloween or a black person who put on whiteface for Halloween,” she continued. “When I was a kid it was okay as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character.”
Even before this latest controversy, which prompted the cast of Netflix’s “House of Cards” to cancel an appearance on her show, Kelly had trouble booking big stars. She seemed to find her footing, though, by focusing episodes on victims of sexual harassment as those stories came to the forefront.
Kelly’s friend Eleanor McManus, a crisis manager who appeared on Kelly’s show several times, argued that NBC’s treatment of Kelly was retaliatory for her reporting on the #MeToo movement — particularly her attention to allegations against NBC and its stars.
“Megyn made a mistake, and she apologized for it immediately. Rather than creating a teaching moment for everyone, NBC chose to shame her,” McManus said. “Megyn has used her show to give a voice to women in the #MeToo movement, not fearing the consequences, even if those people were in her own backyard. She is one of the biggest advocates for women.”
In addition to calling out Ailes’s behavior and asking a tough question of then-candidate Donald Trump during a GOP debate, Kelly covered Matt Lauer’s sexual harassment scandal, and invited one of his victims on her show. She also gave a platform to allegations against NBC News’s Tom Brokaw, both of which stirred resentment among her NBC colleagues.
But Kelly’s rise at Fox exhibited many warning signs of her views on race, which her colleagues at NBC have called problematic. She famously declared on air at the cable channel that both Santa and Jesus were white.
Now, her struggles at NBC have provided a cautionary tale for Fox News personalities looking to exit their sphere and enter another.