Megyn Kelly was shown the door by NBC, and now her lawyer is accusing the network of falsely claiming that the former Fox News star has demanded "more money than her contract requires." For the record, that figure is estimated to be $23 million per year.
"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," Kelly's attorney Bryan Freedman, a litigator of choice among top Hollywood talent, said Wednesday in a statement to media outlets.
Kelly's three-year contract at NBC News was cut short after the onetime right-wing media superstar wondered whether blackface was racist during a Halloween segment on her self-titled third hour of the venerable "Today" show. "When I was a kid, it was OK," Kelly said of blackface, "as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character."
At an employee town hall, Andy Lack, the chairman of NBC News, publicly denounced Kelly's remarks. “There is no other way to put this: I condemn those remarks," he reportedly said. "There is no place on our air or in this workplace for them."
In his statement, Freedman directly called upon the CEO of NBCUniversal to intervene and reject the claims regarding Kelly's contractual demands. "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?" Freedman added. "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."
The Daily Mail first reported that Kelly would only be willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) in exchange for an additional $10 million. "An NBC source with knowledge of the situation said that Kelly is also refusing to sign an NDA unless she gets that additional money from the network, although a source close to Kelly claims it is not money that is the issue," the outlet wrote.
Sources later confirmed the report to TMZ, which wrote that "[Kelly's] lawyer said his client would sign on the dotted line . . . for an additional $10 million. We're told NBC told the attorney to pound sand."
In contrast, The Hollywood Reporter (THR) went to press quoting sources that had told the outlet that Kelly's lawyer had "not asked for more than the value of her three-year deal, which has been reported at $69 million." Nonetheless, the NDA does appear to be a sticking point.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, NBC News disputed Freedman's claims, telling multiple media outlets that, “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.”
However, one NBCUniversal insider told The Daily Beast that the leaks appeared to be coming from inside the walls of the company's headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. "NBC have gone to war with Megyn over the last several days. The constant flood of leaks to the Daily Mail, Page Six and TMZ have NBC's fingerprints all over them," the individual said.
In the wake of Kelly's unceremonious departure from NBC and the flagship morning show, a new Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consultant survey of 2,201 adults revealed that just 26 percent of Americans deemed NBC's response to Kelly's remarks about blackface appropriate. "More Americans than not . . . think that NBC's decision to wind down the television host's show was 'too harsh' a punishment for her comments," THR writes.
Those findings could indicate the potential for Kelly to mount a comeback down the line. "She needs to retreat a little," one crisis PR executive told THR. "If I were her, I'd write an op-ed. Start doing things on social [media] to build up an independent following. And then just wait."
For now, Kelly has taken to social media to voice her concerns about one thing: The Daily Mail.