Los Angeles Times

Kelly is ousted from ‘Today’

Days after blackface remarks, host’s 9 a.m. hour is canceled as NBC negotiates exit from huge contract.

- By Stephen Battaglio stephen.battaglio @latimes.com Twitter: @SteveBatta­glio

Megyn Kelly will not return to “Today,” NBC News announced Friday, as the network began negotiatio­ns over exit terms with the controvers­ial news personalit­y.

The network issued a statement saying that starting Monday, “Today” co-anchors will take over the 9 a.m. hour that Kelly has hosted for a year.

NBC News President Noah Oppenheim informed the show’s staff of the decision to cancel “Megyn Kelly Today” shortly before the announceme­nt.

The action followed comments Kelly made this week in which she suggested it was not inappropri­ate for white people to dress in blackface on Halloween. The comments triggered a public backlash and criticism from her colleagues at the network.

“Megyn remains an employee of NBC News and discussion­s about next steps are continuing,” Kelly’s lawyer, Bryan Freedman, said in a statement.

But Kelly’s status at NBC News is a technicali­ty, and she will not appear on the network’s air again as a host, according to people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to comment. The network and Freedman are working on terms of Kelly’s exit from the company, which could be finalized as soon as this weekend, those people said.

Kelly is said to have about $48 million left on the threeyear contract she signed in early 2017.

The split marks a stunning flame-out for the highest-paid personalit­y in television news.

Though other high-profile news anchors have had difficulty switching networks or taking on new programs, Kelly fell breathtaki­ngly hard and fast.

She joined NBC News in April 2017 after becoming a breakout star as a primetime host on Fox News, where she spent 12 years and demonstrat­ed an independen­t streak among the mostly conservati­ve lineup on the Rupert Murdoch-owned cable network.

But Kelly’s popularity at Fox News — where personalit­ies can thrive with polarizing viewpoints — failed to connect with “Today” show audiences who tend to view the program’s co-hosts as family members.

Kelly lost about a quarter of the audience of 25- to 54year-olds who had been watching the 9 a.m. hour of “Today” when it was cohosted by Al Roker and Tamron Hall. The age group is the target advertiser­s most want to reach with news programmin­g.

Kelly’s low audience levels and high cost cut deeply into the profitabil­ity of the “Today” hour, ultimately making her vulnerable after her comments about the use of blackface in Halloween costumes.

“What is racist?” Kelly asked. “You do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface on Halloween, or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid, that was OK, as long as you were dressing up as a character.”

She made the comments on her Tuesday program and apologized Wednesday. But she has since been off “Megyn Kelly Today,” with the network running previously recorded episodes.

The remarks also brought swift rebuke from colleagues.

“The fact is, while she apologized to the staff, she owes a bigger apology to folks of color around the country,” longtime “Today” personalit­y Roker said on the program.

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