Megyn Kelly has been a talk-show host, a political commentator, and a regular pot stirrer. Now, that pot stirring may have her on the way out at NBC News.
Kelly is no stranger to starting controversy, from declaring that Jesus and Santa Claus had to be white in 2013, to promoting body shaming. Her comments this week defending the use of blackface were apparently the last straw for NBC, which had bet $69 million on the former Fox News star as morning-show host.
“But, what is racist?” Kelly asked her panelists on the Oct. 23 episode of Megyn Kelly Today, before going on to argue that blackface was acceptable when she was younger. Kelly continued by defending the decision of Luann de Lesseps— of the Real Housewives of New York fame—to dress up as Diana Ross, because “I don’t know how that got racist on Halloween,” she said. The backlash, even from on-air from NBC News personalities, was unsparing and swift.
Kelly apologized for her comments on her show and in an email sent to NBC News colleagues. The email—in which Kelly said she had never been a “PC” person but still wanted to be part of meaningful dialogue—hardly seemed well thought out. It clearly wasn’t enough for her business partnerships. NBC has reportedly pulled her from hosting her morning news show and the Creative Artists Agency announced that it would stop representing Kelly.
Still, even though Kelly’s blackface comments catalyzed her departure, tensions had been rising for a long time.
Here are some of the things that Kelly got away with before NBC took away her show:
Kelly openly criticized the network by calling for an investigation into NBC News for not airing Ronan Farrow’s reporting on Harvey Weinstein, which was eventually published in the New Yorker and helped propel the global #MeToo movement. Kelly also interviewed women who accused former Today show anchor Matt Lauer of sexual misconduct and suggested that there’s more to the scandal than NBC let on. According to the New York Times, her reporting on #MeToo, especially on misconduct allegations against Lauer and anchorman emeritus Tom Brokaw, did not go down well with NBC executives and colleagues.
Despite the hype that surrounded her move from Fox News, Kelly’s ratings have been low from the beginning. Her show averaged 2.4 million viewers a day in its first year, a drop of 400,000 viewers on average for that hour of air time, according to Nielsen. And since Kelly joined, ratings among the key demographic of adults aged 25 to 54 have declined 28% since last season, the Wall Street Journal reports. For a $69-million investment, that’s not a very good return.
During an episode of Megyn Kelly Today in January, which featured “Fit Mom” blogger Maria Kang, Kelly claimed that some women wanted to be body shamed. Kelly said that when she was gaining weight in law school, she wanted her stepfather to call out her “fat ass” whenever she walked to the kitchen. Her comments drew criticism for glorifying fat shaming, and some took to Twitter to explain how emotionally traumatic the experince can be. While Kelly issued an apology, many were left unimpressed.
In September 2017, Kelly interviewed Jane Fonda and awkwardly asked the actress about her plastic surgery—which Fonda did not want to discuss—before bringing up Fonda’s visit to Hanoi during the Vietnam War, and questioning her patriotism. The entire affair developed into a feud of sorts between Fonda and Kelly, and it didn’t look too good for NBC either. Publicists started veering their stars away from the show after the incident, which only hurt NBC’s ratings further.
When Kelly interviewed the cast of popular NBC sitcom Will & Grace last year, she invited a Will & Grace super fan onstage and asked whether he became gay because of the character Will—ostensibly as a joke. And when the fan walked off, Kelly said “the gay thing will work out great!” It wasn’t well-received elsewhere, either, as commentators took to Instagram to bemoan why the cast agreed to the interview. Actress Debra Messing replied in a comment back: “Honestly I didn’t know it was MK until that morning. The itinerary just said Today show appearance. Regret going on. Dismayed by her comments.”