Megyn Kelly’s hour of “Today” was canceled amidst the host’s controversial comments about blackface.
Megyn Kelly’s “Today” show run at NBC is over after a tumultuous week that began when she defended blackface Halloween costumes on Tuesday, causing massive backlash that led her to apologize the next day.
“’Megyn Kelly Today’ is not returning,” an NBC spokesperson told USA TODAY. “Next week, the 9 a.m. hour will be hosted by other TODAY co-anchors.”
While the network made it clear her time at the “Today” show was over, her future at the network remains uncertain. USA TODAY has reached out to NBC for additional information.
Earlier Friday, NBC News reporter Morgan Radford said during the “Today” show: “This morning, NBC News host Megyn Kelly is in talks with the network about her imminent departure.”
And although her former colleagues at Fox News have expressed support for her, the network itself indicated it is not inclined to make room for her, saying it is “very happy” with its prime-time lineup.
Kelly, 47, came to NBC News after a decade at Fox News, lured by a contract estimated to be worth $20 million per year. “Megyn Kelly Today” debuted in September 2017. Since then, her hour of the network’s tent-pole “Today” franchise has been marred by controversy, from eyebrow-raising statements she made on the air to her lackluster ratings.
On Kelly’s watch, ratings the 9 a.m. hour of “Today” shed 400,000 viewers, or 13 percent of its audience, compared to when the show was previously hosted by Al Roker and Tamron Hall. Even more disconcerting for the network’s most valuable franchise, her numbers were down 25 percent with viewers aged 25-54, the traditional demographic for TV news.
She largely floundered with her soft-news focus and a pair of awkward and hostile interviews with Hollywood figures Jane Fonda and Debra Messing backfired with bad publicity. Kelly briefly found more of a purpose with the eruption of the #MeToo movement.
What did Megyn Kelly say?! 4 other times the journalist stirred up controversy
The final straw for Kelly on the NBC show came on Tuesday when, during a round-table discussion, she seemingly defended “blackface” and “white face” for Halloween because it was “OK when I was a kid as long as you were dressing like a character.”
At the top of Wednesday’s show, she said, “I want to begin with two words: I’m sorry. You may have heard that yesterday we had a conversation about political correctness and Halloween costumes. … I defended the idea (of blackface), saying that as long it was respectful and part of a Halloween costume, that it seemed OK. Well, I was wrong, and I am sorry.”
The apology was not enough to keep the show afloat.
A rerun of Kelly’s Aug. 31 episode aired in place of a live show on Thursday, signaling the news of her departure was imminent.
The same day Kelly apologized, NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack addressed the controversy during a town hall with staffers, according to transcripts obtained by Variety and The Daily Beast. The meeting was scheduled before this week’s events.
“I assume all of you by now have seen the remarks that (Megyn Kelly) made on her show yesterday about Halloween and blackface. There is no other way to put this but I condemn those remarks, there is no place on our air or in this workplace for them. Very unfortunate,” Lack said.
He continued: “As we go forward, my highest priority remains, and as we sort through this with Megyn, let there be no doubt that this is a workplace in which you need to be proud and in which we respect each other in all the ways we know is foundational to who we are.”
Earlier, her African-American colleagues called her out her during Wednesday’s episode of “Today.”
“There was criticism online yesterday that this was political correctness run amuck. That’s silly and it’s disingenuous and it’s just as ignorant and racist as the statement itself,” said “Today” co-host Craig Melvin, who still described Kelly as a friend and colleague. “She said something stupid, she said something indefensible.”
“The fact is, she owes a bigger apology to folks of color around the county,” said Al Roker, the longest-tenured host on “Today.”This is a history, going back to the 1830s (with) minstrel shows. To demean and denigrate a race wasn’t right. I’m old enough to have lived through ‘Amos ‘n’ Andy’ where you had white people in blackface playing two black characters just magnifying the stereotypes about black people. And that’s what the big problem is. … No good comes from it. It’s just not right.”
Contributing: Leora Arnowitz, Gary Levin, The Associated Press
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/tv/2018/10/26/megyn-kelly-nbc-today-show-exit-blackface-scandal/1763026002/