Less than a year ago, Bill O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly were colleagues at Fox News, forming the most formidable duo (ratings-wise) in cable news as the back-to-back anchors of the conservative network’s biggest nightly primetime hours.
Now neither works for Fox News: O’Reilly was fired in April after multiple sexual-harassment allegations against him, while Kelly has since defected to rival NBC News, where today (Oct. 23) she called out her former colleague and their once-common employer for fostering an unsafe workplace environment and silencing the voices of accusers.
Kelly’s comments marked a stark shift in style and tone for her nascent NBC morning show, Megyn Kelly Today, as its ratings continue to tank.
Kelly opened by addressing a New York Times report that revealed that O’Reilly had settled one harassment complaint against him for an unfathomable $32 million (paywall)—and was then given a four-year contract extension. O’Reilly called the report “lies and smear,” alleging through his spokesman that no woman had ever complained to Fox’s human resources or legal teams about him. Kelly, though, said there was at least one woman who complained to the network about his behavior: her.
The NBC host divulged details of an email she sent last year to then-network co-presidents Bill Shine and Jack Abernethy complaining about O’Reilly after he appeared on CBS This Morning and refused to discuss allegations of sexual harassment at Fox News, cases that included complaints against former CEO Roger Ailes.
The New York Times reported on her email in April, but Kelly unveiled exactly what was written in a scathing monologue:
For a morning show that for its first month of existence was best known for its cringeworthy, unintentional comedy, Kelly’s segment ripping O’Reilly and Fox News was its most effective moment yet.
It was, perhaps, exactly what NBC paid her tens of millions of dollars to do.
In the wake of the Ailes scandal, Kelly left Fox for a multifaceted role at NBC, where she’d host a daytime talk show, a Sunday evening news program, and contribute to the network’s ongoing political coverage. One of the most popular anchors on television, Kelly was a huge get for NBC as it looked to gain some ground on Fox and CNN in the perpetual TV news wars.
However, Kelly’s morning show has thus far been an indisputable disappointment, with the ratings down 32% from the same time slot at NBC a year ago. The show has been criticized from the moment it began in September, and has, at times, looked like a total mismatch. Kelly, who developed an assertive, personal style as a Fox anchor (and has herself come under fire for dubious reporting on racial issues), has tried to be more of morning-show personality in the vein of Kelly Ripa, only significantly more awkward.
Whether or not today’s segment was a desperate ploy to save a sinking ship, it’s clear that Kelly is more comfortable—and more effective—calling out her former employer than she is dancing.