- On Tuesday, Megyn Kelly appeared to defend blackface in a conversation on her NBC show about inappropriate or offensive Halloween costumes.
- After a swift backlash from viewers and colleagues alike, she issued an apology. Her NBC show, however, was canceled on Friday.
- It's not her first time saying something many people found racist or offensive.
On Tuesday, Megyn Kelly hosted a discussion on her NBC morning show Megyn Kelly Today about inappropriate or offensive Halloween costumes, and the topic turned to blackface.
"But what is racist?" Kelly asked. "Because you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface on Halloween, or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid that was OK, as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character."
Her comments caused immediate outrage with viewers and colleagues, many of whom pointed out the long racist history of blackface. Kelly quickly apologized, but it was too little too late. On Friday, a NBC News spokesperson confirmed her show had been canceled in a statement to ELLE (opens in new tab), saying, “Megyn Kelly Today is not returning. Next week, the 9 a.m. hour will be hosted by other Today co-anchors."
NBC probably should not have been surprised by Kelly's comments—or the backlash they incurred. Since Megyn Kelly TODAY premiered in September 2017, Kelly has caused controversy among both viewers and her guests. But her contentious comments date all the way back to when she hosted The Kelly File on Fox News from 2013 to 2017, and was a news anchor on the cable news network since 2004.
Here is a look back at some of the most controversial moments of Kelly's career.
Kelly defends blackface
On Tuesday, Kelly invited an all-white panel to discuss the Kent University's list of inappropriate or offensive Halloween costumes (opens in new tab). In the clip above, Kelly argued it's OK for a white person to use makeup to change their skin tone to dress up as a black person on Halloween.
In addition to her point about how blackface was "okay" when she "was a kid," Kelly mentioned Real Housewives of New York's Luanne de Lesseps, who appeared to darken her skin for a Diana Ross costume, as an appropriate example.
After an outcry from viewers and colleagues, Kelly issued an apology to her co-workers and viewers, sending an email to NBC staffers that said, in part, "One of the wonderful things about my job is that I get the chance to express and hear a lot of opinions. Today is one of those days where listening carefully to other points of view, including from friends and colleagues, is leading me to rethink my own views."
Her colleagues Al Roker and Craig Melvin both spoke out as well (opens in new tab). Roker said her emailed apology to colleagues was not adequate. "She owes a bigger apology to folks of color around the country, because this is a history going back to the 1830s. Minstrel shows," he said. "To demean and denigrate a race wasn't right."
"There was some criticism yesterday online that this was political correctness," said Craig Melvin, a new co-host at Today. "That's silly. And It's disingenuous. And it's just as ignorant and racist as the statement itself."
Kelly presses Jane Fonda on plastic surgery
In September 2017, Kelly's interview with Jane Fonda turned incredibly awkward (opens in new tab) when Kelly asked the then-79-year-old about past plastic surgeries.
"You've been an example to everyone in how to age beautifully and with strength and unapologetically," Kelly said. "You admit you've had work done, which is to your credit. I read that you said you're not proud to admit that you've had work done. Why not?"
Fonda was visibly put off by the question and responded, "We really want to talk about that now?" In subsequent interviews the actress complained about Kelly's question.
But Kelly did not back down. She later addressed Fonda's remarks, saying, “I have no regrets about that question, nor am I in the market for a lesson from Jane Fonda on what is and is not appropriate. After all, this is a woman whose name is synonymous with outrage." The latter seemed to take a dig at Fonda's own controversial history with the Vietnam War (opens in new tab).
Kelly comments on a Will and Grace superfan's sexuality
Also in September 2017, Kelly invited a Will and Grace superfan to meet the cast of the revived NBC show. She spoke about how the original show impacted LGBTQ viewers, and invited the super-fan to share his story.
"Is it true that you became a lawyer and you became gay because of Will?" Kelly said. She then added, "I don't know about the lawyer thing, but I think the Will and Grace and the gay thing are going to work out great."
Many found Kelly's remarks deeply offensive and called her out for saying the fan "became gay because of Will."
megyn kelly literally asked a man if he "became gay" because he watched will & grace today.just get rid of that dumbass already, nbc.September 25, 2017
Actress Debra Messing, who was present during the segment, said she wished he hadn't done the show after hearing Kelly's remarks. “Regret going on. Dismayed by her comments," Messing said in an Instagram comment (opens in new tab).
Kelly encourages body-shaming
In January, Kelly hosted a segment with Maria Kang, a fitness influencer who came under fire after posting a photo of herself and her three children with the caption "What's Your Excuse?" Kang was criticized for seemingly shaming women about unhealthy choices.
In the interview, Kelly said, "When I was in law school, I was gaining weight. I said to my stepfather, ‘If you see me going into that kitchen one more time, you say, ‘Where you going, fat ass?’ And it works!”
Women on Twitter immediately blasted Kelly for her comments and shared how body-shaming did not give them positive and healthy results.
.@megynkelly My dad fat-shamed me for most of my childhood. Guess what? I'm still fat. I have a slew of emotional disorders. And we've never been able to repair our relationship. In short: Shame on you for trying to tell anyone this is a good way to parent. It's poison. https://t.co/NA5A5BvKymJanuary 11, 2018
The next day, on January 12, Kelly responded to the backlash on her show. She said in part:
"I said something yesterday on the show that clearly struck a nerve, and I think it’s a conversation we need to have openly. We were discussing body-shaming others, something I absolutely do not support. In fact, quite the opposite.
Many women have told me that they’ve done similar things to control their propensity to overeat. I understand that. The pressure to be thin is ubiquitous in America, and those who are not can face heartbreaking cruelty. I do not endorse this reality, the truth is I loathe it.
As an adult, I’ve gotten healthier in my approach to eating, but I, like every woman I know, still wrestle with body image, and still cringe when I hear a person attacked for his or her weight. Please know, I would never encourage that toward any person."
Kelly interviews a Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist
In June 2017, Kelly was lambasted (opens in new tab) for her decision to interview Alex Jones on her short-lived newsmagazine show Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly. Jones, a conspiracy theorist, has made many defamatory remarks about the families of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Nelba Marquez-Greene, whose 6-year-old daughter, Ana Grace, was among the victims, said, "Any time you give someone like Alex Jones a platform, their followers will double-down or increase their attack on grieving families. You can't just put him in a box and say he's just a character. He's really hurting people."
One of Jones's allegations was that "parents faked their children's deaths," according to Kelly in the clip above. The interview aired on Father's Day.
Kelly says Santa and Jesus are white
In an infamous December 2013 segment of The Kelly File, Kelly and her fellow Fox News commentators discussed a Slate op-ed titled "Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore (opens in new tab)." In the clip, above, Kelly addressed any children watching her show, saying, "For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white." She then added, "Jesus was a white man, too. He's a historical figure that's a verifiable fact, as is Santa, I just want kids to know that."
In a 2017 Business Insider (opens in new tab) interview, Kelly seemed to take back her comments. "I regret a lot of what I've said," she said. "I mean you're going to be on the air several hours a week live television, you're going to say stupid s---. That's just the reality you know, so, yeah, there's a lot I'd like to go back and say differently."
Kelly argues with D.L. Hughley about police shootings
Kelly invited actor and activist D.L. Hughley to talk about race relations in America in a segment of The Kelly File in July 2016. In the clip, Kelly told her guest "Don't 'wow' me" when he was dismayed by her claims that Michael Brown was the alleged aggressor in his fatal police shooting. (opens in new tab)
"Don't tell me not to 'wow' you," Hughley responded, visibly upset. "I can say 'wow' if I want to." The discussion then continued to get heated as they disagreed about who was at fault in the shooting.
On Thursday, Hughley chimed in on Kelly's latest controversy on Twitter, writing, "She’s been clear about black faces all along."
#MegynKelly argued that both #Jesus & #SantaClaus are white on @Fox in 2013. She’s not confused about #blackface. She’s been clear about black faces all along. #TeamDlOctober 25, 2018
I’m Eileen, the digital news reporter at Hearst Digital Media. As a member of the newsroom, I report on a wide range of news, including entertainment, politics and lifestyle. I also cover red carpet events for over 20 of Hearst's magazine brands. I previously held positions at CNN, Facebook and MTV, where I worked as a digital producer, writer and on-camera host. Fun facts: I'm fluent in Spanish, a BU alum, and love fashion and travel.
Are Brett and Tiffany Still Together After 'Love Is Blind'?
These two are impossible not to root for.
By Quinci LeGardye
Eyeshadows to Make Brown Eyes Sparkle
Alexa, play "Brown Eyed Girl."
By Brooke Knappenberger
Periods Are Under Attack in America
New legislation in the U.S. is designed to persecute women for managing their reproductive health. But the "Don't Say Period" bill just proposed in Florida is the most dangerous yet.
By Megha Desai
36 Ways Women Still Aren't Equal to Men
It's just one of the many ways women still aren't equal to men.
By Brooke Knappenberger
How New York's First Female Governor Plans to Fight for Women If Reelected
Kathy Hochul twice came to power because men resigned amid sexual harassment scandals. Here, how she's leading differently.
By Emily Tisch Sussman
Why the 2022 Midterm Elections Are So Critical
As we blaze through a highly charged midterm election season, Swing Left Executive Director Yasmin Radjy highlights rising stars who are fighting for women’s rights.
By Tanya Benedicto Klich
Tammy Duckworth: 'I’m Mad as Hell' About the Lack of Federal Action on Gun Safety
The Illinois Senator won't let the memory of the Highland Park shooting just fade away.
By Sen. Tammy Duckworth
Roe Is Gone. We Have to Keep Fighting.
Democracy always offers a path forward even when we feel thrust into the past.
By Beth Silvers and Sarah Stewart Holland, hosts of Pantsuit Politics Podcast
The Supreme Court's Mississippi Abortion Rights Case: What to Know
The case could threaten Roe v. Wade.
By Megan DiTrolio
Sex Trafficking Victims Are Being Punished. A New Law Could Change That.
Victims of sexual abuse are quietly criminalized. Sara's Law protects kids that fight back.
By Dr. Devin J. Buckley and Erin Regan
My Family and I Live in Navajo Nation. We Don't Have Access to Clean Running Water
"They say that the United States is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Why are citizens still living with no access to clean water?"
By Amanda L. As Told To Rachel Epstein