NBC sent $17 million a year on fire, and now has a reason to cut bait:
On the Tuesday episode of her show, Megyn Kelly made racially insensitive remarks that caused a backlash. On Wednesday, she apologized at length to her NBC studio audience, which rewarded her with a standing ovation. And on Thursday, she did not go on the air.
In place of the live show that had been scheduled, NBC broadcast a previously recorded episode of “Megyn Kelly Today.” “Happy Friday!” Ms. Kelly said in the show’s opening moment.
It was the latest sign that Ms. Kelly may never return to the NBC airwaves.
Her decision to skip “Megyn Kelly Today” came two days after she suggested, during an on-air round-table discussion, that it was appropriate for white people to dress in blackface as part of their Halloween costumes.
Ms. Kelly apologized in an email to her NBC colleagues hours after making those remarks. On Wednesday, she delivered an on-air apology in the opening minute of her 9 a.m. show — “I’m Megyn Kelly, and I want to begin with two words: I’m sorry.”
But her demonstrations of contrition did little, it seemed, to improve her standing with her colleagues or superiors at the network. At a midday meeting of NBC News staff members on Wednesday, Andrew Lack, the chairman of the news division, did not mention her apologies and said, “There is no other way to put this, but I condemn those remarks.”
Al Roker, a “Today” fixture, said on the show Wednesday that Ms. Kelly “owes a bigger apology to folks of color around the country.” The anchor Craig Melvin called her comments “racist and ignorant.”
By the end of the day, Ms. Kelly and Creative Artists Agency, the Hollywood talent agency that represented her, had parted ways. In addition, cast members and showrunners from the Netflix drama “House of Cards” had canceled their scheduled appearance on her show.
With no apparent support from her colleagues, her boss or her representatives, Ms. Kelly stayed out of the fray on Thursday, leaving her future at the network very much in doubt.
The events of the week were a dramatic shift for Ms. Kelly, who left Fox News for NBC in January 2017 in a splashy, high-priced signing. NBC gave her a rich deal through 2020 that was worth a reported $17 million a year and signaled that she would be a centerpiece of the network.
Early in 2018, there were signs that Ms. Kelly and NBC were not on the same page. The network did not assign her as part of the team to cover the Olympics coverage in February, saying it did not want to disrupt her momentum.
After an extended period of pedestrian ratings, Ms. Kelly and Mr. Lack had a discussion earlier this month — well before the “blackface” remarks — on the possible winding-down of her portion of the “Today” show by the end of the year, according to two people briefed on the conversation. And Ms. Kelly has openly told friends in recent weeks about her unhappiness with top executives at NBC News.
The thing is that Fox News is not a news organization, and no serious journalist would host one of its primetime campaign advertisements for the Republican Party. Moreover, to do these advertisements by definition means being comfortable with race-baiting. Success in that context will not translate into mainstream appeal (cf. MSNBC’s many dismally rated attempts to turn Tucker Carlson into a thing.) That Andy Lack and company were unable to perceive these very obvious facts is another great moments for our overcompensated and underachieving elites.