Megyn Kelly might be gone, but she is definitely not forgotten—especially at Fox News, where she left a residue of resentment among some of her former colleagues over her role in the July 2016 downfall of the channel’s late founder and chairman, Roger Ailes.
Tucker Carlson’s surprise booking of the former Fox News star for his Wednesday night 8 p.m. show—mainly to share her thoughts on the Ronan Farrow/Harvey Weinstein/Matt Lauer troubles at NBC News, where she spent an unhappy 18 months before she was fired almost a year ago—has sent several on-air Fox News personalities into an uproar over Kelly’s return to her cable news stomping ground.
Multiple sources inside and outside Fox News told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that Martha MacCallum, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham—whose programs air at 7pm, 9pm and 10pm, respectively, on the right-leaning outlet—were variously spooked and irked by the prospect of Kelly’s return, which Carlson announced at the end of Monday’s installment of Tucker Carlson Tonight.
“This Wednesday night, two nights from now, someone who knows an awful lot about NBC is making her first TV appearance since parting ways with that channel nearly a year ago,” Carlson teased Kelly’s appearance as her publicity photo flashed onscreen. “Megyn Kelly will join us as a guest on this program for her first interview. She’s got a lot to say. I hope you’ll watch.”
Carlson’s announcement of the booking—which he nailed down last week without prior approval from his Fox News bosses or, for that matter, from their boss, Lachlan Murdoch—was arguably not the bombshell that Shepard Smith’s on-air resignation surely was last Friday.
But—in part because Smith’s sudden departure from the 3 p.m. time-slot will require a programming adjustment, if not a shakeup, in the Fox News daytime schedule, and Kelly has been actively seeking employment options in recent months since NBC News Chairman Andy Lack fired her on Oct. 26, 2018 over her apparent on-air endorsement of Halloween blackface—it caused more than a stir.
By most accounts, Fox News’ chief executive, Suzanne Scott, was compelled to re-assure each nighttime host individually throughout the day on Tuesday that their jobs were safe and that Kelly’s appearance on Carlson’s show was a one-time-only event.
Late Monday night in response to Carlson’s promo, the network also issued this statement: “Megyn Kelly’s forthcoming guest appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight was coordinated weeks ago and is a one-time occurrence. Any future programming changes we are considering do not involve her.”
A source familiar with Kelly’s thinking told The Daily Beast that Kelly “has a good relationship with Lachlan and Tucker, among others, but left Fox News for good reason and has no intention of going back.”
Kelly’s temporary return to the TV studio comes at a moment when she is once again a trending topic. The Hollywood Reporter revealed on Tuesday that she has been in talks with CBS and Viacom vice-chair Shari Redstone about the possibility of joining a new conservative television outlet that Redstone hopes to launch as a rival to Fox News.
What’s more, Kelly will be portrayed by Charlize Theron in the upcoming film Bombshell, which dramatizes the professional demise of Ailes (portrayed by John Lithgow) after he was sued for sexual harassment by Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman), and Kelly, then the biggest star at Fox News, sealed his fate by reporting Ailes’ misconduct to Lachlan Murdoch and the outside law firm hired to investigate Gretchen Carlson’s allegations.
Before her abrupt career implosion at NBC last year, Kelly, who turns 49 next month, was one of the most celebrated—and highest-paid—personalities in television news.
But after Lack lured her to NBC News from Fox for a three-year contract reportedly worth $69 million—to helm the third hour of the Today show—Kelly’s ratings never measured up to the hype, and the blackface scandal capped a series of missteps, and public challenges to NBC News management.
Most notable was her on-air criticism of NBC for clearing its executives, including Lack and NBC News President Noah Oppenheim, for their handling of the allegations against Matt Lauer without hiring independent outside investigators.
Both an NBC News spokesperson and Kelly declined to comment Tuesday on her planned Fox News appearance.