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Megyn Kelly Is Said to Be Leaving Fox News for NBC

All of us seen this one coming just didn’t know where she would end up.
Megyn Kelly, who arrived at Fox News 12 years ago as a television news neophyte but rose to become one of its two biggest stars, has decided to leave the network to take on a broad new role at NBC News for an undisclosed amount, people briefed on the negotiations said on Tuesday.

The NBC News chairman, Andrew Lack, wooed Ms. Kelly away from Fox News by offering her a triple role in which she will host her own daytime news and discussion program, anchor an in-depth Sunday night news show and take regular part in the network’s special political programming and other big-event coverage.

The move will herald a seismic shift in the cable news landscape, where Ms. Kelly had become the second-most watched host — after Bill O’Reilly of Fox News — and often helped define the national political debate, especially over the last year as Donald J. Trump regularly attacked her, at times in viciously personal terms.

Ms. Kelly’s departure would upend Fox News’s vaunted prime-time lineup and inject a new dose of tumult just a few months after the departure of the network’s powerful founding chairman, Roger Ailes, who was ousted after several women made allegations that he sexually harassed them.

The new deal, which NBC is expected to announce imminently, brings to a close the most anticipated television news contract negotiations since Katie Couric signed with CBS News in 2006, for $15 million a year.

Fox News’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, which is controlled by the family of Rupert Murdoch, had offered Ms. Kelly more than $20 million a year to stay after her current contract expires this year. Rival networks seeking to hire Ms. Kelly away, including NBC News, had made it clear that they could not match that money from Fox, the cable news leader for the last 15 years running.

Ms. Kelly’s contract is not officially up until the summer, and it was unclear whether Fox News would refuse to release her from any contractual commitments that might delay her start at a rival.

People briefed on the talks, who would only speak on the condition of anonymity pending an announcement, declined to disclose what Ms. Kelly’s new annual salary would be at NBC. But even a modest raise would place her among television’s highest paid journalists. The Wall Street Journal recently reported she was to collect $15 million for the final year of her contract.

It was unclear at what time the daytime program would run, or how NBC News would ensure that all of its affiliates would carry it, given that daytime television is often filled with syndicated programs. But people familiar with the discussions said NBC was confident that it would not be a problem. The daytime program would be a mix of news, interviews and panel-like discussions covering a range of issues, not only government and politics.

The Sunday night program, which is yet to be named, would provide Ms. Kelly with a continued hand in hard news. And she would be in the mix on NBC News during major political coverage.

A spokeswoman for Ms. Kelly, Leslee Dart, did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the deal.

Ms. Kelly had hinted in interviews and in her recently released memoir, “Settle for More,” that the highest bid would not decide her future; she said she was seeking a role that would give her more time with her three young children while allowing her to extend her range beyond the constant political combat of cable news.

In recent months, some of that combat was taking place inside the Fox News headquarters, after Ms. Kelly’s allegation that Mr. Ailes — a mentor and early champion of her career — had sexually harassed her. (Mr. Ailes has denied her charges and the others.)

Her allegation was one of several that came to light after another Fox News anchor, Gretchen Carlson, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Mr. Ailes in July. In a subsequent investigation commissioned by 21st Century Fox, 20 or more women, including Ms. Kelly, reported inappropriate behavior by Mr. Ailes. But because of her stature at the network and her once close relationship with Mr. Ailes, Ms. Kelly’s account proved instrumental in his ouster.

In her book, Ms. Kelly described her decision to step forward as a painful one that came in the face of a networkwide campaign to support Mr. Ailes, which she viewed as potentially intimidating to other accusers. Her decision to share her story with investigators drew apparent enmity from some rival stars, with the resentment lingering as she deliberated her next career move.

Most prominent among them was Mr. O’Reilly, who said in an interview on CBS News about allegations against Mr. Ailes that Ms. Kelly shared in her book, “I’m not interested in making my network look bad.”

Later that day, he continued the thought in a commentary on his own show in which he appeared to question Ms. Kelly’s loyalty to Fox by saying, without naming her: “If somebody is paying you a wage, you owe that person or company allegiance. If you don’t like what’s happening in the workplace, go to human resources or leave.”

(The new leadership of Fox News, Bill Shine and Jack Abernethy, recently revamped the human resources department; current and former Fox News staff members had said that they did not take complaints to the department under Mr. Ailes for fear of retaliation.)

Mr. O’Reilly’s contract is also up later this year. The television news and political worlds were closely watching for Ms. Kelly’s decision as an indication of the network’s future in its post-Ailes era. The speculation — and it was just that — went that one or the other would depart and that a decision by Ms. Kelly to renew would indicate a shift to a more nuanced ideological sensibility.

Over the years, Ms. Kelly, who views herself as more of a news analyst than opinion host, had developed a broader style in the more ideological confines of the Fox News prime-time slate, frequently upsetting expectations for a nighttime Fox personality — for instance, publicly taking on the Republican nominee for president with whom Mr. Ailes was friendly (upon leaving Fox, Mr. Ailes would go on to serve as an informal adviser to Mr. Trump).

Mr. Murdoch’s sons, James and Lachlan, who help run 21st Century Fox, while making clear they want a modern workplace environment at Fox News, have also said the network would not shift away from what Lachlan Murdoch called its “unique and important voice.” That voice continues to propel Fox News to the top of the cable news ratings in the nascent Trump era.

Nonetheless, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal in the fall, Mr. Murdoch said money would be no object in keeping Ms. Kelly.

People familiar with Ms. Kelly’s deliberations said she was entertaining several attractive possibilities, including at CNN and ABC News and in syndicated television.

Ms. Kelly was holding the discussions during a bruising year of campaign coverage in which she often became the story because of Mr. Trump’s attacks.

One person briefed on Ms. Kelly’s deliberations said that Mr. Lack, the NBC News chairman, won over Ms. Kelly by starting the talks with a question about what she was seeking, instead of flatly offering possibilities. He then came back with a deal that was tailored to her preferences. A daytime show would give her a schedule that would allow her to see her children off to school and to have dinner with them and her husband, Douglas Brunt, a novelist.

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When I came out of my Momma’s womb Democrat WASN’T stamped on my forehead.

Dan Adams
When I came out of my Momma's womb Democrat WASN'T stamped on my forehead.

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