With the ink still drying on Megyn Kelly’s $25-30 million separation agreement from NBC News, questions have begun to emerge about what the ex-daytime star might do next. Without the shackles of a non-compete clause, Kelly’s future is more open than at any time in her television career.
“At this point, with the money that she settled for, she could buy time and do whatever she wants to do,” longtime radio host Curtis Sliwa told TheWrap. “She’s going to be swimming in dough.”
But few expect her to just retire — despite the debacle of her short-lived tenure at NBC hosting the third hour of the network’s morning “Today” juggernaut and an even shorter-lived primetime magazine show.
So where will she take her talents — and how soon? Kelly herself has teased her desire to get back into television, telling TMZ in an interview posted this month that she intended on making a return to the small screen. “You’ll definitely see me back on,” a grinning Kelly told the website as she strolled along a Manhattan street with her husband, Douglas Brunt.
We spoke to insiders about Kelly’s options. (A rep for Kelly did not respond to requests for comment for this story.)
1. Return to Fox News
For many, the obvious move would be for Kelly to return to Fox News, where she first made her name. After beginning with a sleepy afternoon gig hosting “America Live” in 2010, she rapidly moved through the ranks. By the time Donald Trump came along in 2015, she had become one of the channel’s brightest primetime stars until exiting two years ago for a rich, three-year deal with NBC.
“If I were a betting man, she’s going back to Fox,” a former senior Fox News channel executive told TheWrap. “They could use the publicity. They could use a more balanced point of view to counter the Ingrahams and Hannitys and Carlsons. And after a flurry of scandal, what would be more perfect than a strong woman adding her voice to the lineup.”
Added a current Fox News insider, “She still has a ton of friends and former direct colleagues here.”
The hitch is that Fox News has insisted that the network has no interest in bringing Kelly back. “It’s laughable how embarrassingly out of the loop this person is who leaves fingerprints with every reporter he talks to,” a current Fox News executive said, pooh-poohing any talk of a triumphant Kelly return.
Indeed, Fox News’ current lineup doesn’t present any obvious place for Kelly to squeeze in right now. And Fox co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch said in November that he was happy with his network’s current primetime roster. “I’m a big fan of Megyn’s. I like her a lot. We didn’t want her to leave Fox when she did,” he told an audience at the The New York Times DealBook conference. “Having said that, I’m very happy with our current lineup on Fox and we won’t be making any changes there.”
But that was then. Since Murdoch made his remarks, an advertiser boycott has engulfed his 8 p.m. star Tucker Carlson, while another boycott, launched last by Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg, is still taking a bite out of Laura Ingraham’s ad revenues at 10 p.m. Both shows have been running with a lower ad load, according to previous reporting from TheWrap and others.
Though the network has vowed to stand by both hosts, Kelly could become an increasingly attractive option if sponsors continue to stay away.
2. Another Major News Network
Of course, the world of TV news is bigger than Fox News. CBS News has been in turmoil since the ouster of chief David Rhodes — not to mention morning anchor Charlie Rose and “60 Minutes” executive producer Jeff Fager amid #MeToo concerns. And new division boss Susan Zirinsky may be looking to replace new “Evening News” anchor Jeff Glor, who has struggled in the ratings since taking in October 2017.
Kelly could be an attractive option in that slot — or at the network’s other marquee shows, including “CBS This Morning” and “Face The Nation,” whose ratings have also suffered in 2018.
Reps for CBS News did not immediately respond to request for comment, but a senior insider said was highly skeptical. “I don’t see her as an option for anything,” the individual told TheWrap. “Her record at NBC speaks for itself.”
ABC also declined to comment, but there is no obvious role for Kelly at that network either. Even the traditionally fluid conservative spot on “The View” is now occupied with Meghan McCain, who won praise last week for her grilling of Women’s March co-chair Tamika Mallory.
“I think she’s a little too damaged now,” an ABC insider said of Kelly, adding that there was a distinct perception among viewers that Kelly “lacked empathy” after past on-air statements, including a defense of white people wearing blackface at Halloween that led to her ouster last October. “The Santa Claus is white, the blackface thing, it’s not like those are issues you can just brush aside,” the individual said. “You have to prove to the audience that you get it before you come here.”
3. An upstart TV network
Another option for Kelly would be a spot on local news juggernaut Sinclair. Veteran media columnist Jack Shaffer noted in a Politico piece last October that the right-leaning Maryland-based network could “rebottle” some of the old Fox News magic by picking up Kelly and perhaps even recruiting former colleagues Bill O’Reilly and Greta Van Susteren.
“Crazier things have happened,” Shafer said. Reps for the company did not respond to requests for comment.
4. Ditch news for reality TV
Some TV insiders suggested that Kelly might think outside the TV news box, either by trying another go at daytime (in syndication) or leaning on her legal background for something closer to A&E’s “Live PD” or Court TV.
“There are other networks besides Fox or NBC. She could end up on HGTV,” conservative media critic Stephen Miller told TheWrap. “She’s still a prime name and there are networks that aren’t left-wing think tanks who might give her a show. Lifestyle network, etc.”
5. Strike out beyond TV altogether
Given her recent experiences with networks and on air, some insiders wonder whether Kelly should seek an off-camera career — at least for a while. “I mean if I were her, I’d just f—ing retire and go write books,” Miller said.
Still, don’t expect a juicy tell-all about her tumultuous run at NBC — her separation agreement with the network is known to have included an nondisclosure agreement.