At a town hall meeting for NBC News employees on Wednesday, NBC News chairman Andy Lack spoke of Megyn Kelly’s defense of blackface during a recent episode of Megyn Kelly Today with a dubious level of disgust. “There is no other way to put this, but I condemn those remarks,” Lack said. “There is no place on our air or in this workplace for them. Very unfortunate.” Dubious, considering this is who Megyn Kelly is and has always been. And it’s almost comical to watch someone who hired Kelly feign amnesia.
Kelly has been spewing racist vitriol on TV for over a decade. On Fox News she feverishly covered the New Black Panther Party in a way that loosely translated to “BE AFRAID, WHITE PEOPLE! BE AFRAID!” and would go on to draw comparisons to a “minstrel show” nearly a decade ago. Those sort of antics in the afternoon hours eventually led her to a cushy primetime slot on Fox News where she would rack up a litany of offenses that ranged from “racially insensitive” to racist as all hell. Word to the white Jesus Megyn Kelly so infamously and defiantly advocated for.
NBC knew Kelly’s history and hired her anyway. Not long after NBC News announced the hiring of Kelly, Lack did an interview at the IESE Business School in New York and described her as a “serious journalist” and said “her work on Fox commanded attention because of who she was interviewing, how she was interviewing them, and the information she was getting every night on that broadcast.”
What Megyn Kelly was good at was giving the Fox viewership exactly what it wanted. She fear mongered about Muslims and immigrants, denigrated Black men, women, and children unjustly dying at the hands of the state, and routinely hosted anti-LGBTQ extremists and various hate-group leaders. As a former lawyer, she often interrogated individuals from marginalized communities who appeared on her program and asked that the Megyn Kellys of the world treated us with basic decency. She aggressively rebuffed most of their efforts and a shtick was born.
So, when Lack claims Kelly “wanted to do a broadcast with broader audiences that only we on a broadcast platform could provide,” he means she wanted to be a bigger star and he wanted to capitalize off of her popularity and score a boost in ratings. It’s akin to ABC reaching out to Roseanne Barr for a Roseanne reboot to target Trump voters. NBC knew what it was signing up for-and assumed it would reap benefits.
Megyn Kelly might have been a ratings winner at Fox News, but much of that had to do with her having a built-in audience with an insatiable appetite for prejudice. It’s why Tucker Carlson does just fine in Bill O’Reilly’s old time slot and why Kelly could leave Fox without much of a ratings dip. Outside of the Fox bubble though, Kelly’s ratings were low. The show pulled in a low viewership compared to its competitors at the same time slot.
If you never correct a problem, you are doomed to repeat it. Megyn Kelly Today garnered headlines for low ratings, awkwardness alongside criticism over homophobic remarks, claims that the Obama administration went “too far” protecting college sexual assault victims, and now, fatally, defending blackface. On the eve of the announcement that Megyn Kelly Today was done for good, CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter asked, “Who ever thought Megyn Kelly's career at NBC would end like this?” Stelter meant it in the context of “who thought she'd leave the network without even saying goodbye on the air?” but the answer is the same: anyone paying close enough attention.
Lack and others at NBC News who championed Kelly made a calculated choice to sacrifice the humanity of others for the sake of a perceived ratings boost. They wanted a return on their investment and were willing to put up with the stench until it became unbearable. But you can’t Febreze a defense of blackface-particularly when you managed to never match the ratings of the Black talent you replaced.
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