In one of those moves open to interpretation -- and judging from the flurry on online interest, it’s already been widely interpreted -- Megyn Kelly will co-host “Live with Kelly” for one day only following the Nov. 8 election.
On its own, a temporary “Live” co-host gig signifies almost nothing, except this can hardly fall into that category: On Tuesday, Kelly sparred with Newt Gingrich on “The Kelly Files” in a widely noted interview where she suggested he work on his “anger issues.” That alone provided both bait and hook for a page 1 of the business section in a New York Times analysis by “Mediator” columnist Jim Rutenberg who wrote of Kelly’s “break from (Fox News) orthodoxy here and there” but that this particular encounter “represented a bigger split at Fox News.”
Kelly’s contract is up next summer, but there has been -- as noted -- widespread speculation in the press about her future. ABC News is (reported) to have expressed interest, either for a prime-time role or (more likely) for one at “Good Morning America,” or both. A huge vacuum also exists at ABC -- the one created after Barbara Walters retired. Kelly is also (reportedly) interested in filling that.
Then this Wednesday: News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch gave an interview to Joe Flint of The Wall Street Journal in which he said he hopes to have a new contract lined up “very soon” but also seemed to ominously warn that if she were to go, “we have a deep bench of talent, many of whom would give their right arm for her spot.”
Murdoch’s intercession in a negotiation of this magnitude is hardly unusual -- he even intercedes on New York Post headlines -- but his specific suggestion that he’s even open to the possibility that she might leave is unusual. In his WSJ story, Flint also confirmed that Kelly is seeking “well north of $20 million” on the next contract, although Murdoch -- who presumably confirmed the figure -- said money was no object. (Her current deals pays her $15 million.)
While the figure seems huge -- indeed, it is huge -- other male figures make as much or more. Matt Lauer is in the midst of a contract believed to pay him $25 million per annum. Bill O’Reillly -- as the WSJ also noted -- is in the $20 million range, too. For Kelly, the figure therefore has a certain aura of symbolism: If Fox News is willing to pay her this much, than she becomes de facto as important to the network as O’Reilly.
Back to “Live with Kelly”: On a day that already looms as most of the most significant in recent American history, Megyn Kelly, at least for one hour, will be on another network other than Fox News, discussing a new president. That too is symbolic. That the network is ABC (“Live” is produced by WABC/7) makes it even more so.