NEW YORK — Megyn Kelly, the former Fox News Channel personality who made a rocky transition to softer morning news at NBC, was ousted Friday from her “Today” program after her controversial on-air comments about blackface.
‘”Megyn Kelly Today’ is not returning,” NBC News said in a statement. The fourth hour of NBC’s venerable “Today” franchise that Kelly’s show occupied will be hosted by other co-anchors from the show beginning next week, the network said.
NBC didn’t address the status of Kelly herself, who reports said was negotiating over her multimillion-dollar contract.
The cancellation came four days after Kelly provoked a firestorm of criticism for asking on air why dressing up in blackface for a Halloween costume is wrong. Social media condemnation was swift, and Kelly apologized to fellow NBC staffers later in the day and made a tearful apology on her show Wednesday.
Kelly did not host “Megyn Kelly Today” as scheduled on Thursday and Friday mornings. She is in the middle of the second year of a three year contract, which reportedly pays her more than $20 million a year.
Kelly made her debut as NBC morning TV host on Sept. 25, 2017, taking over the 9 a.m. slot of “Today” and saying she wanted viewers “to have a laugh with us, a smile, sometimes a tear and maybe a little hope to start your day.” She did cooking demonstrations and explored emotional topics.
She largely floundered with that 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.
She made news when interviewing women who accused Trump of inappropriate behavior and spoke with accusers of Harvey Weinstein, Brett Ratner, Bill O’Reilly, Roy Moore and Mark Halperin, as well as women who allege they were harassed on Capitol Hill.
Time magazine, which honored “The Silence Breakers” as its Person of the Year, cited Kelly as its leader in the entertainment field. The episode with Trump accusers had more than 2.9 million viewers, one of her biggest audiences.
But strains continued behind the scenes. Kelly last month publicly called for NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack to appoint outside investigators to look into why the network didn’t air Ronan Farrow’s stories about disgraced Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein and allowed him to take the material to the New Yorker. That’s a particular sore point with NBC’s management.
And her ratings have been consistently down from what “Today” garnered in the 9 a.m. hour before Kelly came on board. In its first year, Kelly’s show averaged 2.4 million viewers a day, a drop of 400,000 viewers from the year before.
Elber reported from Los Angeles.