Megyn Kelly has decided to join NBC News, and Fox News says her last day on the air will be Friday.
The network announced today that Kelly will be giving up her prime-time role at Fox for a multi-year deal that includes several roles at NBC. She will launch a daytime program as well as a Sunday evening news magazine show, and be part of the network’s coverage of major political and breaking-news events.
Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, said in a statement: “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.”
In a Facebook posting, Kelly said: “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. I remain deeply grateful to Fox News, to Rupert, Lachlan and James Murdoch, and especially to all of the FNC viewers, who have taught me so much about what really matters.”
Fox News fought hard to keep Kelly, who became a breakout star and whose 9 p.m. show was the second-highest rated in cable news, behind “The O’Reilly Factor.” Donald Trump’s attacks on Kelly during the campaign helped turn her into an international celebrity and she was featured on the cover of the New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair and other publications. She also just published a best-selling memoir, “Settle for More.”
Kelly’s contract at Fox was not due to expire for another six months.
Kelly stood to make an eight-figure salary wherever she went. As she talked about her decision, it became clear that a top priority was a schedule that would allow her to spend more time with her three young children, who went to bed before she returned home from her nighttime program.
Fox News now faces the challenge of replacing Kelly in prime time, as well as at such major events as debates and political conventions, where she has generally appeared alongside Bret Baier and Chris Wallace.
Kelly was an increasingly unhappy lawyer in 2004 when she parlayed a part-time gig at a Washington station into a reporting job at Fox. She quickly rose through the ranks, co-anchoring “America’s Newsroom” with Bill Hemmer and then hosting a 1 p.m. show before the move to prime time.
In agreeing to join NBC, Kelly said, “I have decided to end my time at FNC, incredibly enriched for the experiences I’ve had.”
NBC Universal Chairman Andrew Lack said in a statement, “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.”
The move gives Kelly access to the potentially larger audience of a major broadcast network. But launching a daytime program can be difficult, even for famous journalists.
Katie Couric, the former “Today” co-host and CBS anchor, lasted two years in an ABC-backed daytime show whose first executive producer was Jeff Zucker, now CNN’s president. CNN anchor Anderson Cooper also lasted two seasons in daytime. The largely female audience tends to favor entertainment and lighter fare over serious news topics. NBC did not announce a time for Kelly’s new show.
Trump’s attacks on Kelly after the first presidential debate, when she asked him about his demeaning comments toward some women, brought her a torrent of online abuse and, she disclosed in her book, her family was forced to use security guards. The two buried the hatchet in an interview that aired on the Fox broadcast network.