With NBC News in negotiations with host Megyn Kelly’s lawyer over the terms of her dismissal, network sources are beginning to share more about the behind the scenes drama leading up to the public blowup — and it doesn’t have much to do with her questioning if it was necessarily “racist” for someone to change their skin tone for Halloween.
The Washington Post reports that after talking with a “half-dozen current and former NBC staffers” on the condition of anonymity, it appears that NBC throwing Kelly under the bus has been a long-time coming, proceeded by “a compounding list of problems: Inside the building, colleagues had grown envious of her large salary, exasperated by her on-air gaffes and disdainful of her low ratings.”
“Everyone’s feeling is, even if you have to pay her [the remainder of her contract], pay her,” one staffer told the Post. “Andy [Lack], you can save face with this entire thing. Just get rid of her.”
As the Daily Beast highlights, Kelly was already on the rocks over the poor performance of her show, Lack having told her weeks ago that her morning show was going to get the ax. “Weeks before her blackface gaffe, Kelly was looking for an exit strategy,” the Beast reports.
In addition to problems with her “envious” colleagues and ratings struggles, Kelly recently publicly questioned NBC’s handling of the Ronan Farrow expose on Harvey Weinstein, a story NBC quashed, prompting Farrow to leave and repeatedly rebuke his former network. According to Mediaite, Kelly’s relationship with the network “soured” after that:
Farrow recently accused NBC News of blocking his reporting on Weinstein, a charge that was denied by network chief Andy Lack. Megyn Kelly covered the spat on her NBC News morning show, questioning NBC’s handling of the Weinstein report, and suggesting the network use an “outside investigator” to find out what happened.
In the next few weeks, NBC and Kelly’s relationship soured. Her comments this week defending blackface ignited a controversy that earned public rebukes from her NBC colleagues, and a strong condemnation from Lack before the network’s staff.
On Wednesday, Lack made clear that he wasn’t going to stand behind his employee, even after her emotional apology. “There is no other way to put this: I condemn those remarks; there is no place on our air or in this workplace for them,” said Lack.
Kelly has hired high-powered lawyer Brian Friedman to represent her in the negotiations over her contract, and Friedman has already made a notable demand: that Farrow be present at the meeting, a move that highlights the role Kelly’s defense of Farrow may have played in her firing.
The ugly situation revolves around Kelly’s comments on Tuesday about what is appropriate for Halloween costumes. Noting that “Real Housewives of New York” star Luann de Lesseps has been decried as “racist” for darkening her skin to dress as Diana Ross, Kelly asked why that was necessarily racist.
“And people said that that was racist. And I don’t know!” said Kelly. “I thought like, who doesn’t love Diana Ross? She wants to look like Diana Ross for one day, and I don’t know how that got racist on Halloween.”
Her comment was portrayed as a defense of “blackface,” the racist tradition of a white person applying make-up to mock people of color.
On Wednesday, Kelly issued a tearful apology, an apology which Lack and co. apparently do not find sufficient — at least, that’s the network’s “cynical excuse.” Here’s her apology: