Executives at NBC News were reportedly “shocked” and “stunned” by the severity of Today host Megyn Kelly’s on-air takedown of Jane Fonda this week, according to a report.
The New York Post‘s Page Six reports that NBC’s top brass gave the OK to Kelly to launch her broadside against Fonda this week, during which she blasted the 80-year-old actress over a contentious exchange from several months ago in which Kelly asked Fonda a question about plastic surgery.
After Fonda continued to denounce Kelly over the plastic surgery question in two recent media appearances, Kelly took to the air Monday to slam the actress for her “moral indignation,” and even called her by her old nickname, “Hanoi Jane,” for her previous vocal opposition to American involvement in the Vietnam War.
“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,” Kelly said during Monday’s show. “She called our POWs hypocrites and liars and referred to their torture as ‘understandable.’ Even she had to apologize years later for that gun picture. But not for the rest of it. By the way, she says she is not proud of America. So, the moral indignation is a little much.”
But while NBC reportedly signed off on the segment, Page Six reports that executives didn’t realize how far Kelly would take it, and fear that the segment will make it even harder for Kelly to book celebrity guests on her show, a problem she’d been having before the Fonda episode. NBC aired a previously taped Kelly show on Tuesday, the day after the takedown.
“The problem is that nobody at NBC is controlling Megyn,” one network insider told the outlet. “They paid her more than $20 million to host the 9 a.m. show, and she’s been given too much power. But the fact remains: You can’t say those things, or be so aggressive, on morning TV.”
“Plus, Megyn was already having trouble booking celebrities — so how is she ever going to book other stars if they disagree and she goes on air later and trashes them?” the unnamed source added.
Reports surfaced in October that Kelly’s then-new Today hour had been having trouble booking celebrity guests. In September, Will & Grace actress Debra Messing said she “regretted” going on Kelly’s show after the host had asked a fan whether he’d been inspired to become gay after seeing Eric McCormack’s character on the newly-revived NBC series.
According to the New York Times, Kelly’s ratings are up nearly 22 percent from the program’s disastrous start late last year, as the rest of the Today lineup has benefitted from NBC’s firing of its former star anchor, Matt Lauer, in December after numerous allegations of sexual misconduct.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum