Former Fox News star Megyn Kelly will not be returning to NBC's "Today Show": multiple reports

At the price tag of $23 million per year, NBC News brass signaled it had made a long-term investment in Megyn Kelly

By Joseph Neese

Deputy Editor in Chief

Published October 25, 2018 7:15PM (EDT)

Megyn Kelly apologizes for blackface comments. (YouTube/Today)
Megyn Kelly apologizes for blackface comments. (YouTube/Today)

At the price tag of $23 million per year, NBC News brass signaled that its decision to lure Megyn Kelly away from her home at Fox News would be a long-term investment. "Megyn Kelly was once talked about as the future face of NBC News — possibly as its next chief news anchor," NPR noted.

However, long before the end of her astronomical three-year contract, Kelly has been removed as the host of the third hour of the venerable "Today Show" franchise after suggesting that wearing blackface during Halloween is not racist, according to multiple reports. Live tapings of her show had previously been pulled for the rest of the week.

“They’re contacting the staff and reassigning everyone today. Everyone’s being told that they still have a home here, but it won’t be on Megyn’s show,” a source told "People" magazine on Thursday. “They haven’t made an official announcement about the show, but everyone knows what it means when they’re being moved somewhere else. The show is clearly over.”

The news arrives a mere two days after the former Fox News star questioned what is actually racist. "When I was a kid, it was OK," Kelly said of blackface, "as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character." When Roseanne Barr equated former senior Obama administration official Valerie Jarrett to the result of the "muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes" having a baby, ABC fired her in mere hours.

And Kelly's controversial comments could cost her much more than her role on "Today." "It's clear she will not be returning to the network," a source told NPR.

"The newsroom was stunned," one source from NBC told Salon in the wake of Tuesday's broadcast, "and many seasoned journalists felt her comments are an insult to the profession. She is now officially a racist. First 'White Santa,' now this. What appalled many NBC staffers is the fact Kelly would go racist, even dabble in it, on the family-friendly 'Today Show.' Bad message on such a prominent and historic program."

Kelly's comments also came under scrutiny on air by her colleagues Craig Melvin and Al Roker, who co-host the first two hours of the venerable NBC News morning show known for its family-friendly tone. Roker detailed the painful history of white people using blackface to subject people of color to offensive and degrading ridicule. "She owes a bigger apology to folks of color around the country," he concluded.

Nonetheless, the jury remains out as to wether Kelly could possibly mount a comeback to NBC News in a different capacity. According to The Hollywood Reporter, talent litigator Bryan Freedman is gearing up for a Friday morning showdown with NBC executives over Kelly's future with the news division. The outlet elaborated on the team's legal strategy as such:

A key part of his discussion with NBC News executives is expected to involve what Kelly views as some hypocrisy on the part of NBC — that it was OK for a sister property (Bravo) to show a woman dressed in what appeared to be blackface. Kelly and a panel of contributors were talking about Real Housewives of New York castmember Luann de Lesseps' Diana Ross costume, which caused a stir earlier this year because de Lesseps appeared to have darkened her skin for the costume, which included a white evening gown and sky-high wig. De Lesseps apologized after the episode caused controversy when it aired last spring.

As she transitioned from the cable news wars of primetime to the family-friendly arena of daytime, Kelly never felt like a natural fit to audiences or critics alike. “The truth is, I am kind of done with politics for now,” the former Fox News host infamously declared on the first episode of her self-titled hour of "Today." However, she never fully left behind the controversial rhetoric that made her a star at the conservative news network.

Despite her lackluster debut at NBC News to an even less enthusiastic reception, the news cycle tossed Kelly a life preserver of sorts in the form of #MeToo. As Salon's TV critic Melanie McFarland previously wrote, "#MeToo has allowed Kelly to find a point of connection with her female-skewed audience, one she’s struggled to find thus far. Her overly polished image and upper-class comportment stands in contradiction to that of the average daytime viewer."

For Kelly, softening her primetime news edge to win over the daytime crowd has been a challenge — and McFarland predicted Kelly's achilles heel at the network would be in step with her ability to sow divisions. She wrote, "NBC may adjust the package, and Kelly may still be in her moment. But once the fire of #MeToo dies back to embers, she and her new network will be contending with the same problems, only in a different year."

Salon's Shira Tarlo contributed to this report. 

By Joseph Neese

Joseph Neese is Salon's Deputy Editor in Chief. You can follow him on Twitter: @josephneese.

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