NBC’s Hiring of Megyn Kelly Appears to Signal a Shift to the Right
After months of negotiations with a number of major networks, Fox News star Megyn Kelly announced on Tuesday that she is joining NBC News, where she will host a daytime TV show and a weekly feature program, as well as being involved in the network’s political coverage.
Kelly’s contract with Fox News isn’t officially up until July, but she began discussions in October with several broadcasters after a widely-reported tiff with then-presidential candidate Donald Trump boosted her public profile. It’s not clear what NBCUniversal will be paying her, but she was reportedly making $15 million a year at Fox.
Despite her disagreement with Trump—and a few tense exchanges with host Bill O’Reilly after she said she was sexually harassed by former Fox chairman Roger Ailes—there’s no question that Kelly has been a key player at the conservative-leaning network.
So does her hiring suggest that NBC is trying to move to the right in order to appeal to the kind of conservative audience that helped elect Trump? It’s hard not to see it in that light. (Fortune requested a comment from NBCUniversal on the implications of Kelly’s hire, and if one arrives, it will be added to this post).
NBCUniversal News Group chairman Andrew Lack—the architect of the Kelly hire, according to a report in the New York Times that broke the news of her departure—said in a release that she is “an exceptional journalist.” A glowing profile in Vanity Fair last year described her as a “female role model who transcends politics.”
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All that said, however, Kelly also has a reputation for promoting right-wing views on a variety of topics, including race. For example, she talked about an alleged plan by President Obama to force white neighborhoods to diversify, and also repeatedly criticized the Black Lives Matter movement, casting doubt on whether police shootings had anything to do with race.
Kelly has also made critical comments about gay and transgender issues on a number of occasions, according to the left-leaning media watchdog group Media Matters, and has repeatedly hosted anti-gay groups such as the Family Research Council, which believes that homosexuality is a sin and that gay men routinely recruit children to be homosexual.
The Fox anchor also spent a considerable amount of time on her show pushing the idea that the Obama administration was somehow involved in voter intimidation efforts in 2008 involving a group called the New Black Panther Party, despite a conspicuous lack of evidence to that effect.
On a network like Fox News, Kelly might have appeared to be a moderate voice, especially after she stood up to Trump’s repeated public bullying. But she is clearly a leading voice for right-wing viewpoints, which is why Fox reportedly offered her $20 million a year to stay.
These are all of Trump’s potential conflicts of interest:
And Kelly isn’t the only conservative voice making the move from Fox (FOX) to NBCUniversal (CMCSA). Former host Greta Van Susteren, who left the network in September, will reportedly have a show on MSNBC soon, and former anchor Gretchen Carlson—who triggered the departure of Ailes with her sexual harassment lawsuit—recently guest-hosted the Today Show.
For a network like NBC, embracing right-wing views by hiring and promoting hosts like Kelly may seem like a pragmatic move given what Trump’s election appears to say about the stance that many U.S. voters take on a number of issues. But what effect will this right-ward shift have on the rest of the population and their news consumption?