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Dublin: 18 °C Tuesday 11 August, 2020

Megyn Kelly dropped from US TV show after blackface comments

Kelly’s contract with NBC News is reported to be $69 million.

NBC reporter Megyn Kelly during an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
NBC reporter Megyn Kelly during an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Image: PA Images

NBC NEWS HAS pulled the plug on US television journalist Megyn Kelly’s morning talk show, after her comments about the use of blackface sparked a major backlash.

“Megyn Kelly Today is not returning,” NBC News reported, citing its own spokesperson.

“Next week, the 9am hour will be hosted by other Today co-anchors.”

The 47-year-old Kelly, a former attorney and Fox News anchor, is in talks about her future at NBC, with unnamed sources quoted by the network itself saying she is likely to leave.

Kelly’s attorney, Bryan Freedman, was quoted as saying that “discussions about next steps are continuing.”

At issue, according to The Hollywood Reporter: the payout of the remainder of her reported $69 million contract, and the length of her non-compete clause, which will determine where she could go next.

The cancellation of Kelly’s program was swift.

Just three days ago, during a segment about Halloween costumes, Kelly questioned if blackface — makeup traditionally used by non-black performers to mock African-Americans — was always problematic.

“What is racist? Because, truly, you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface for Halloween or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween,” she said Tuesday.

When I was a kid, that was OK as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character.

The comments sparked a quick backlash on social media, calls for Kelly’s resignation and displeasure from her own colleagues.

“While she apologised to the staff, she owes a bigger apology to folks of colour around the country,” said veteran NBC weatherman Al Roker, who is black.

On Wednesday, she opened her live show with a mea culpa.

“I’m Megyn Kelly and I want to begin with two words: I’m sorry,” Kelly said.

“I learned that given the history of blackface being used in awful ways by racists in this country, it is not OK for that to be part of any costume, Halloween or otherwise.”

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Even before the controversy, Kelly had struggled in the ratings, often losing out to her competitors at ABC, a talk show hosted by Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest.

It averaged about 2.4 million viewers a day, while its direct competitor, ABC’s Live with Kelly and Ryan, leads the time slot with 3 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Kelly earned fame as a longtime anchor for Fox News, notably sparring with Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election campaign.

She left that network early last year and joined NBC. She has accused Fox co-founder Roger Ailes of sexually harassing her. Ailes died in May 2017.

© – AFP 2018 with reporting by Rónán Duffy

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