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How much money could Megyn Kelly get just to leave NBC? $30 million

A multimillion dollar payout reportedly awaits the woman who endorsed blackface on national TV.

Megyn Kelly at the seventh annual Women in the World Summit in New York City on April 6, 2016. (CREDIT: Laura Cavanaugh/FilmMagic)
Megyn Kelly at the seventh annual Women in the World Summit in New York City on April 6, 2016. (CREDIT: Laura Cavanaugh/FilmMagic)

During a Halloween segment at what would turn out to be the end of a brief and abysmal tenure at NBC, Megyn Kelly told viewers that she did not see what was so racist about wearing blackface. When she was a child, she insisted, that sort of thing — a direct descendant of minstrel shows, an action that does not exist independent of its historical context — was absolutely fine, “as long as you were dressing up like a character.”

Though NBC should have been able to predict that Megyn “Santa and Jesus, who are both real, are/were both white” Kelly would say some racist or, at best, ignorant thing on the air, as her televised track record is lousy with such incidents, they apparently decided it was worth hiring her anyway. She left Fox, the network where she became a star, lured away to NBC by a $69 million contract.

Weeks after the blackface debacle, for which Kelly ended up apologizing, Page Six is reporting (and the Wall Street Journal is confirming) that Kelly is finalizing her exit deal with NBC. For her poorly-viewed and failure-ridden single year of service, Kelly is reportedly getting $30 million — just to go away.

From Page Six:

Another [source] confirmed: “Everyone wants this to be over — both Megyn and NBC — and Comcast has the money to pay off Megyn. We thought this would be a done deal a few weeks ago.”

One senior TV source added: “NBC decided rather than fight and face a lawsuit from her, they — and more importantly, Comcast with all its money — decided to draw a line under the entire debacle and pay Megyn the full amount owed in her contract to go away.

“But this is far from the end of her TV career — in the Trump era, there are few broadcasters like her. Megyn would likely take a short break from TV and return to cable news ahead of the 2020 election.”

WSJ‘s follow-up, published Tuesday night, confirmed the details of the Page Six report and added that Kelly and NBC are still negotiating over the non-financial pieces, including nondisclosure and noncompete clauses that could prevent, or at least delay, Kelly’s expected efforts to return to television.

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In this way, Kelly — who herself went public with allegations of sexual harassment by former Fox head Roger Ailes — has something in common with the multitude of men who have been ousted from their jobs following credible accusations of workplace sexual misconduct. Several of those men were also reportedly granted exit packages in the millions of dollars after their behavior was unearthed by their employers — essentially a financial reward plus early retirement for atrocious behavior.

It’s yet another high-profile debacle on the part of NBC. As ThinkProgress has previously reported, NBC’s highlights reel of late includes: Sitting on the 2005 Access Hollywood tape of then-GOP nominee Donald Trump bragging about the ease with which he could sexually assault women; planning to edit the Trump tapes in order to protect Billy Bush, who’d been promoted to Today from Access Hollywood in 2004; reportedly killing Ronan Farrow’s Harvey Weinstein investigation; failing to act on a multitude of complaints against Matt Lauer, who allegedly spent much of his career sexually harassing, coercing, and abusing his NBC colleagues while counting himself as one of the network’s highest-paid faces; ignoring the accusations of sexual misconduct multiple women made against Tom Brokaw; insisting they’d completed a “thorough internal investigation” into systemic sexual abuse and found nothing — even though, again, other outlets uncovered the alleged abuses by Brokaw and Lauer. 

Once more details of Kelly’s exit contract are known, viewers will get a better sense of if — or, more likely, when — they can expect to see Kelly’s face on screen again. Surely she hopes to return in time to cover the 2020 election.