Long before she became an unlikely voice of the anti-Trump resistance, Megyn Kelly made a name for herself on Fox News by espousing controversial opinions—especially as they pertain to holidays and race. But while declaring that Santa and Jesus must be white may have earned her accolades at her old network, a more recent argument around race and Halloween did not sit as well at NBC, her new home. Just hours after questioning the taboo of white people donning blackface for seasonal costumes on her TV show, Kelly wrote a letter of apology to her work colleagues, saying: “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.”
Addressing an all-white panel of guests—Jenna Bush Hager, MSNBCs Jacob Soboroff, and Melissa Rivers—on the air Tuesday, Kelly expressed confusion about social norms that discourage white people from darkening their faces while wearing costumes. “You do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface for Halloween or if youre a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid that was O.K. as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character,” she said.
Though the rest of the panel seemed to be arguing against Halloween costumes that might offend, none reacted very strongly on-air to Kellys comments. Kelly also did not pause to consider the broader social implications of blackface—leading to a barrage of strongly worded tweets from viewers and other news professionals.
In an internal e-mail to her co-workers at NBC which was soon circulated in the online trades, Kelly acknowledged her error Tuesday afternoon:
Dear friends & teammates –
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.
When we had the roundtable discussion earlier today about the controversy of making your face look like a different race as part of a Halloween costume, I suggested that this seemed O.K. if done as part of this holiday where people have the chance to make themselves look like others. The iconic Diana Ross came up as an example. To me, I thought, why would it be controversial for someone dressing up as Diana Ross to make herself look like this amazing woman as a way of honoring and respecting her?
I realize now that such behavior is indeed wrong, and I am sorry. The history of blackface in our culture is abhorrent; the wounds too deep.
Ive never been a “P.C.” kind of person—but I understand that we do need to be more sensitive in this day and age. Particularly on race and ethnicity issues which, far from being healed, have been exacerbated in our politics over the past year. This is a time for more understanding, love, sensitivity, and honor, and I want to be part of that. I look forward to continuing that discussion.
Im honored to work with all of you every day.
NBC paid through the nose to poach Kelly from Fox News in early 2017—and according to reports earlier this year, that bet has not paid off. Despite a three-year contract for $69 million, Business Insider has reported that Megyn Kellys shows “are low in every regard”—when compared to the numbers she pulled at Fox, shows that air in the same time slot on other networks, and the hosts that came before her at NBC.
Get Vanity Fairs HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Joanna RobinsonJoanna Robinson is a Hollywood writer covering TV and film for VanityFair.com.