The battle between Megyn Kelly and NBC executives went public Wednesday as Kelly’s attorney accused the network of leaking false information about her. NBC denied the allegation and shot back, saying Kelly’s side had been talking out of turn.
The day began with a Daily Mail report about the fractious negotiations over Kelly’s multimillion-dollar contract. “It’s all out war,” the headline blared.
Kelly “is looking to get her $69M payout PLUS a $10M bonus in exit package because NBC ‘destroyed her career’ — and is threatening to expose execs,” the report read.
People close to both sides of the negotiation denied that Kelly had asked for money above the value of her contract — but that was about the only thing the two sides could agree on.
Kelly joined NBC in January 2017 on a reported three-year, $69 million contract. Her show, which aired during the 9 a.m. hour of the “Today” show, was abruptly canceled after she argued that blackface was not an inappropriate costume for Halloween.
On Twitter, Kelly called out the Mail’s coverage and specifically took umbrage at the newspaper’s decision to publish photographs of her children. She wrote that the Mail photographer “trailed us to my daughter’s school, & secretly videotaped my 7-yr-old child (her classmates too) & posted it. THIS IS NOT RIGHT.”
Kelly’s attorney, Bryan Freedman, has been negotiating the terms of her separation from NBC for a week. The discussions have hit a snag over the language in a joint statement that would announce Kelly’s departure from NBC News, according to two people familiar with the deliberations.
Their disagreement centers on how much emphasis should be placed on Kelly’s blackface comments. People close to her allege that Kelly’s comments, for which she apologized on air, are mostly being used as an excuse for the company and NBC News Chairman Andy Lack to get rid of Kelly, whose show had floundered.
Friends of Kelly have argued that her aggressive coverage of allegations of sexual harassment against NBC News’s television personalities have alienated her from her colleagues and top management.
Kelly and Lack had multiple conversations over the past few months about the future of the show, its disappointing ratings and how to fix them.
The two sides do not differ over the money she is owed, these people said.
Freedman put out a statement that placed blame for news coverage of Kelly at NBC’s feet. Kelly has told friends for months that she suspects NBC employees of leaking negative stories about her.
“Despite my efforts to handle this process confidentially, NBC News is allowing the media to run with completely false and irresponsible reports that disparage Megyn by erroneously claiming she has ever asked for more money than her contract requires,” Freedman’s statement read, an apparent reference to the Daily Mail story. “If NBC News is not the source then they have a responsibility as a news division to correct these false claims. Or are they somehow attempting to use these fabrications for some fictitious advantage in the discussions we’re having? If Andy Lack has lost control, my hope would be that Steve Burke can step in and not permit blatant lies about our discussions to remain uncorrected.”
Burke is chief executive of NBCUniversal.
An NBC News spokesman responded, “Unlike Mr. Freedman, who has repeatedly commented to the media throughout the negotiations, we respect the confidentiality of the process, and will have no comment until it reaches its conclusion.”