Megyn Kelly Leaving Fox News For NBC

CARLOS BARRIA/REUTERS. Megyn Kelly moderated a GOP primary debate in January 2015 along with Chris Wallace (left) and Bret Baier.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly is leaving the cable news network for NBC News, the network announced Tuesday.

Kelly will take on multiple roles at NBC. She’ll host a one-hour daytime talk show airing Monday through Friday and a Sunday evening news magazine show, and will contribute on breaking news stories and NBC’s coverage of major political and special events.

“Megyn is an exceptional journalist and news anchor, who has had an extraordinary career,” Andrew Lack, chairman of the NBCUniversal News Group, said in a release. “She’s demonstrated tremendous skill and poise, and we’re lucky to have her.”

The departure is a major blow to Fox News, where Kelly hosted a top-rated 9 p.m. show and was considered a key part of the network’s future.

In a Facebook post, Kelly said she was “incredibly enriched for the experiences” she had in a dozen years at Fox News. She’ll wrap up her last episode of “The Kelly File” on Friday.

A former litigator, Kelly joined Fox News as a Washington-based correspondent in 2004. She later moved to co-anchoring in the morning, and in 2010, hosted her own show from 1 to 3 p.m. Kelly’s coverage at the time often echoed the broader Fox News worldview, such as her obsessive focus on the fringe New Black Panther Party. She also came under fire in 2013 after asserting that Jesus and Santa Claus were white.

In recent years, Kelly repositioned herself as an independent voice among Fox News’ more partisan talkers and joined news anchors Bret Baier and Chris Wallace to moderate debates and steer election night coverage. She was the subject of a January 2015 New York Times Magazine cover story that highlighted her tendency to stray from Fox News orthodoxy and the reputation she has gained for aggressively challenging figures on both sides of the aisle.

Kelly’s national profile skyrocketed during the 2016 election after Donald Trump leveled personal attacks against her and feuded with the network over her coverage. At the first Republican debate, in August 2015, she drew Trump’s wrath for asking about his history of misogynistic and sexist remarks. The following day, Trump suggested Kelly was menstruating at the time.

In July, Kelly was again in the spotlight after telling investigators that she, too, was sexually harassed by former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes. He resigned in disgrace soon after. 

Kelly publicly described Ailes’ sexual advances in November during the rollout for her memoir, Settle for More. In the book and subsequent interviews after the election, Kelly revealed Trump threatened to turn his millions of Twitter followers against her.

During the election cycle, Kelly’s more critical coverage of Trump distinguished her from Fox News’ two other primetime stars. Bill O’Reilly was generally sympathetic to Trump in the 8 p.m. slot, while Sean Hannity was the Republican candidate’s biggest media booster at 10 p.m.

While Fox News remains the dominant cable news network, the network’s primetime line-up is in flux. O’Reilly, whose contract is up later this year, has hinted at retirement and Kelly was viewed as the future face of Fox News.

The Murdoch family, which runs parent company 21st Century Fox, tried keeping Kelly in the fold. She is reportedly making $15 million for this final year of her Fox News contract, and Fox News was said to offer her at least $20 million annually to stay.

In a Tuesday statement, 21st Century Fox Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch thanked Kelly for her 12 years at Fox News. “We hope she enjoys tremendous success in her career and wish her and her family all the best,” he said.

For Kelly, the move completes a yearslong trajectory from anchor on a conservative cable news network to a major TV news personality on a broadcast network. And in launching a daytime show, Kelly will presumably also get to broaden her focus, and potentially appeal, to audiences beyond cable news politics junkies.

The New York Times, which first reported on Kelly’s move to NBC, noted she was also considering opportunities at ABC and CNN. Though the terms of the NBC deal weren’t announced, the network may not have matched Fox News’ offer. Indeed, Kelly’s representative said Tuesday that “money wasn’t the driving factor.”

Megyn Kelly bolts Fox News for NBC News

Megyn Kelly is signing off on Fox News to join rival NBC News.

The popular cable network personality on Tuesday said she is joining the peacock network, where she will anchor a new, one-hour daytime program, Andrew Lack, chairman of the NBCUniversal News Group, said in a statement today.

Kelly was arguably the most prominent TV journalist during the contentious 2016 presidential election, engaging in a public spat with President-elect Donald Trump and disavowing former Fox News chief Roger Ailes over his personal behavior. She also hosted one of the top-rated shows on Fox News Channel. All of that made her a coveted free agent among TV networks as she neared the end of her contract with Fox.

As part of a broad, multi-year deal, Kelly will also anchor a new Sunday evening news magazine show and contribute to NBC’s breaking news, political and special events coverage. Kelly, who was reportedly paid $15 million a year by Fox in the last year of her deal set to expire in July, was seeking $20 million for her next contract, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Megyn is an exceptional journalist and news anchor, who has had an extraordinary career,” Lack said. “She’s demonstrated tremendous skill and poise, and we’re lucky to have her.”

NBC said details on Kelly's duties will be announced in the coming months.

"While I will greatly miss my colleagues at Fox, I am delighted to be joining the NBC News family and taking on a new challenge," Kelly said in a Facebook post. Kelly, who reportedly held talks with ABC and CNN among others, is expected to host her last show on Fox on Friday.

Kelly had no further comment, a spokeswoman for her said.

The departure of Kelly, whose ratings were second only to those of her colleague Bill O'Reilly, is a major blow to Fox, which has retained most of its top talent.

"We thank Megyn Kelly for her 12 years of contributions to Fox News. We hope she enjoys tremendous success in her career and wish her and her family all the best," Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, said in a statement.

"At a time when network news is in need of a jolt and credibility after the 2016 election, she is a tough, sharp interviewer," says Rich Hanley, associate professor of journalism at Quinnipiac University, who compared Kelly's signing to Katie Couric's jump from NBC's Today Show to anchor the CBS Evening News in 2006.

Kelly, who anchored The Kelly File since 2013, sparred with Trump during the first GOP debate, when she confronted him about his insulting remarks about women.

Trump countered with slashing remarks in which he insinuated Kelly was antagonistic to him in the debate because she was menstruating. The two eventually met in Trump’s office to hash out their differences.

She also clashed with Ailes, who left the top-rated news organization he helped shape over accusations of sexual harassment. She said Ailes harassed her starting in 2005, according to her book, Settle for More.

Megyn Kelly Is Leaving Fox News for NBC

Megyn Kelly, who arrived at Fox News 12 years ago as a television news neophyte but rose to become one of its two biggest stars, has decided to leave the network to take on a broad new role at NBC News for an undisclosed salary, NBC announced Tuesday afternoon.

The NBC News chairman, Andrew Lack, wooed Ms. Kelly away from Fox News by offering her a triple role in which she will host her own daytime news and discussion program, anchor an in-depth Sunday night news show and take regular part in the network’s special political programming and other big-event coverage.

The move will herald a seismic shift in the cable news landscape, where Ms. Kelly had become the second-most watched host — after Bill O’Reilly of Fox News — and often helped define the national political debate, especially over the last year as Donald J. Trump regularly attacked her, at times in viciously personal terms.

Ms. Kelly’s exit will upend Fox News’s vaunted prime-time lineup and inject a new dose of tumult just a few months after the departure of the network’s powerful founding chairman, Roger Ailes, who was ousted after several women made allegations that he sexually harassed them.

Fox News’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, which is controlled by the family of Rupert Murdoch, had offered Ms. Kelly more than $20 million a year to stay after her current contract expires this summer. Rival networks seeking to hire Ms. Kelly away, including NBC News, had made it clear that they could not match that money from Fox, the cable news leader for the last 15 years running.

Ms. Kelly’s last day on her show, “The Kelly File,” will be Friday.

People briefed on the talks, who would only speak on the condition of anonymity pending an announcement, declined to disclose what Ms. Kelly’s new annual salary would be at NBC. But even a modest raise would place her among television’s highest paid journalists. The Wall Street Journal recently reported she was to collect $15 million for the final year of her contract.

In its announcement, NBC said the daytime program would run Monday through Friday at a time to be determined. It is unclear how NBC News would ensure that all of its affiliates would carry it, given that daytime television is often filled with syndicated programs. But people familiar with the discussions said NBC was confident that it would not be a problem.

The daytime program would be a mix of news, interviews and panel-like discussions covering a range of issues, not only government and politics.

The Sunday night program, which is yet to be named, would provide Ms. Kelly with a continued hand in hard news. And she would be in the mix on NBC News during major political coverage. The network said more details about her role would be announced in the coming months.

In a statement on Facebook announcing her move to NBC, Ms. Kelly thanked Mr. Murdoch and his sons, Lachlan and James, along with “the FNC viewers, who have taught me so much about what really matters.” She said her time at Fox News “changed my life,” but it was time for a new challenge.

“Megyn is an exceptional journalist and news anchor, who has had an extraordinary career,” Mr. Lack said in a statement. “She’s demonstrated tremendous skill and poise, and we’re lucky to have her.”

Ms. Kelly had hinted in interviews and in her recently released memoir, “Settle for More,” that the highest bid would not decide her future; she said she was seeking a role that would give her more time with her three young children while allowing her to extend her range beyond the constant political combat of cable news.

In recent months, some of that combat was taking place inside the Fox News headquarters, after Ms. Kelly’s allegation that Mr. Ailes — a mentor and early champion of her career — had sexually harassed her. (Mr. Ailes has denied her charges and the others.)

Her allegation was one of several that came to light after another Fox News anchor, Gretchen Carlson, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Mr. Ailes in July. In a subsequent investigation commissioned by 21st Century Fox, 20 or more women, including Ms. Kelly, reported inappropriate behavior by Mr. Ailes. But because of her stature at the network and her once close relationship with Mr. Ailes, Ms. Kelly’s account proved instrumental in his ouster.

In her book, Ms. Kelly described her decision to step forward as a painful one that came in the face of a networkwide campaign to support Mr. Ailes, which she viewed as potentially intimidating to other accusers. Her decision to share her story with investigators drew apparent enmity from some rival stars, with the resentment lingering as she deliberated her next career move.

Most prominent among them was Mr. O’Reilly, who said in an interview on CBS News about allegations against Mr. Ailes that Ms. Kelly shared in her book, “I’m not interested in making my network look bad.”

Later that day, he continued the thought in a commentary on his own show in which he appeared to question Ms. Kelly’s loyalty to Fox by saying, without naming her: “If somebody is paying you a wage, you owe that person or company allegiance. If you don’t like what’s happening in the workplace, go to human resources or leave.”

(The new leadership of Fox News, Bill Shine and Jack Abernethy, recently revamped the human resources department; current and former Fox News staff members had said that they did not take complaints to the department under Mr. Ailes for fear of retaliation.)

Mr. O’Reilly’s contract is also up later this year. The television news and political worlds were closely watching for Ms. Kelly’s decision as an indication of the network’s future in its post-Ailes era. The speculation — and it was just that — went that one or the other would depart and that a decision by Ms. Kelly to renew would indicate a shift to a more nuanced ideological sensibility.

Over the years, Ms. Kelly, who views herself as more of a news analyst than opinion host, had developed a broader style in the more ideological confines of the Fox News prime-time slate, frequently upsetting expectations for a nighttime Fox personality — for instance, publicly taking on the Republican nominee for president with whom Mr. Ailes was friendly (upon leaving Fox, Mr. Ailes would go on to serve as an informal adviser to Mr. Trump).

James and Lachlan Murdoch, who help run 21st Century Fox, while making clear they want a modern workplace environment at Fox News, have also said the network would not shift away from what Lachlan Murdoch called its “unique and important voice.” That voice continues to propel Fox News to the top of the cable news ratings in the nascent Trump era.

Nonetheless, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal in the fall, Rupert Murdoch said money would be no object in keeping Ms. Kelly.

People familiar with Ms. Kelly’s deliberations said she was entertaining several attractive possibilities, including at CNN and ABC News and in syndicated television.

Ms. Kelly was holding the discussions during a bruising year of campaign coverage in which she often became the story because of Mr. Trump’s attacks.

One person briefed on Ms. Kelly’s deliberations said that Mr. Lack, the NBC News chairman, won over Ms. Kelly by starting the talks with a question about what she was seeking, instead of flatly offering possibilities. He then came back with a deal that was tailored to her preferences. A daytime show would give her a schedule that would allow her to see her children off to school and to have dinner with them and her husband, Douglas Brunt, a novelist.

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