“Today” show host Megyn Kelly had it all — a prime-time slot on NBC’s flagship morning show and a deal that’s paying her $69 million over three years.
Then, halfway through that contract, and despite up-and-down ratings, she told the world what she really thinks, live on the air.
“Back when I was a kid, that was OK,” she griped on “Megyn Kelly Today” Tuesday as she recalled the long-lost days when, in her mind, white kids were free to wear blackface for Halloween.
“Just as long as you were dressing as a character,” Kelly “explained.”
The backlash, online and even among her colleagues — notably “Today” mainstay Al Roker — was immediate.
Despite her private and public apologies, it took just 48 hours for NBC to kick Kelly to the curb of 30 Rock on Thursday, yanking her show from the airwaves, as first reported by Page Six.
But Kelly isn’t leaving quietly.
The former Fox News darling wants her friend and ex-NBC colleague Ronan Farrow — the journalist whose exposé of Harvey Weinstein helped bring down the pervy producer and propelled the #MeToo movement — to be present during exit talks slated for as early as Friday.
Her lawyer, Bryan Freedman, “is meeting with NBC execs [Friday] and has requested that Ronan Farrow attend, so he can be a witness,” to Kelly’s exit negotiations, a source told Page Six.
The odds of Farrow setting foot inside NBC again are slim, given his own public dispute with the Peacock Network’s news chairman, Andy Lack, a clash Kelly egged on and joined in.
Farrow had initially penned his Weinstein piece for NBC after the network commissioned him, as a freelancer, to investigate rumors of the movie mogul’s casting couches and loosened bathrobes.
Instead, NBC and Lack balked, spiking the piece in August 2017, Farrow has said.
Farrow then took his work to The New Yorker magazine, which on Oct. 10, 2017, ran his article revealing that dozens of women had accused Weinstein of rape, assault and harassment. The piece started a worldwide conversation about sexual misconduct.
Since then, Farrow, 30, and Kelly, 47, have publicly sparred with Lack over the story being spiked.
Last month, Kelly used her own show — on NBC — to call on the network to hire an outside firm to look into how it bungled Farrow’s reporting on Weinstein.
“There’s the question of the faith and confidence of the public in the reporting of NBC on matters involving itself,” she said, essentially airing network laundry on the network itself.
“For me, as a lawyer, it’s always better if you just send it outside,” Kelly, who has a law degree from Albany Law School, said in urging an external probe. “And then people have more faith in it.”
Practically speaking, given the zero likelihood of NBC inviting Farrow to join an already toxic fray, Kelly is taking one last, but feeble public shot at the network, this time by bouncing a final stink bomb against the now-closed studio doors.
It’s an even more feeble shot given that Farrow himself may be in the dark about the move by Team Kelly.
“Ronan knows nothing about this,” a source told Page Six later on Thursday.
Given her last-ditch theatrics, Kelly seems determined to continue causing real damage to the network, one NBC insider complained.
“Megyn’s pattern of racial insensitivity has bitten her badly here,” the insider said.
“And this transparent attempt to distract from the pain she has caused with her comments is really unseemly.”
It’s hardly the first time Kelly has been accused of racial insensitivity.
In a USA Today column that ran Thursday, Kelly’s former Fox News colleague Kirsten Powers, now a CNN commentator, dished about several disputes in which she said the rancorous anchor displayed outright bigotry.
Kelly, Powers alleged, once railed at her off-air over a 2008 Fox News caption that referred to Michelle Obama as “Obama’s Baby Mama.”
Just a stupid joke, she said Kelly insisted.
In 2015, Kelly weighed in on a McKinney, Texas, police officer who was caught on video pinning a 15-year-old girl to the ground at a pool party. She sniped that the girl was “no saint” for not leaving when the officer asked her to.
That same year, she brushed off racist emails that were exchanged among officials in Ferguson, Mo. — including one that joked that a man was seeking “welfare” for his dogs because they were “mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and have no frigging clue who their Daddies are.”
Such emails are normal, Kelly argued.
“There are few companies in America, whether they are public or private,” she said, where “you won’t find any racist emails or inappropriate comments.”
Then there was Kelly’s “White Santa” moment.
In 2013, Slate ran an essay headlined, “Santa Claus should not be a white man anymore,” and Kelly hit the roof.
“When I saw this headline, I kind of laughed and I said, ‘This is so ridiculous,’ ” she told her Fox audience. “And, by the way, for all you kids watching at home, Santa is just white.”
She soon added, “Jesus was a white man, too … He’s a historical figure, and that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa.”
In her USA Today column, Powers said such behavior was part of “a long track record of racial demagoguery.”
“ ‘Megyn Kelly said something really racist’ should not be a surprising sentence to anyone,” she wrote.
The racism accusations overshadow some considerable career highlights.
Kelly’s big “gets” include an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin on NBC last year and one with President Trump on Fox News in 2016 after feuding with Trump the previous year.
Who could forget Kelly’s opening salvo as a moderator at the first Republican presidential primary debate in 2015? “You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs’ and ‘disgusting animals,’ ” Kelly pressed Trump, who replied “Only Rosie O’Donnell.”
And who could forget the war that followed, when Trump hit back at Kelly’s debate grilling, telling CNN, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her whatever.”
Meanwhile, insider speculation was rampant Thursday over what Kelly’s next moves could be.
One top Hollywood vet said the industry buzz is that Kelly will need to “go away for a while, take a break and come back.”
“She’s toxic [right now]. She’d have to come back with a different idea and a new approach,” the veteran added.
But if she walks away from negotiations — with or without Farrow — with what remains of her reported $69 million, she could certainly afford to take a break and mull her options.
Additional reporting by Emily Smith and Laura Italiano
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