Megyn Kelly's Jane Fonda Jab May Cost 'Today' Star Bookings
Multiple talent reps say the "Hanoi Jane" remarks have made them reconsider booking clients on 'Megyn Kelly Today.' "Actors don't trust her," says a publicist.
Is Megyn Kelly’s Monday morning takedown of Jane Fonda — in which Kelly invoked Fonda’s Vietnam-era Hanoi Jane sobriquet — the first of more provocations? Or was it a one-off?
Those close to Kelly tell The Hollywood Reporter that she had had enough of Fonda’s insults stemming from an interview on Megyn Kelly Today back in September, during the first week of Kelly’s show. That’s when Fonda abruptly shut down Kelly’s questions about plastic surgery, a topic Fonda has openly discussed in past media appearances.
The tipping point was a Jan. 20 interview Fonda did with Variety in which she said she was “stunned” by the question, asserting that it “showed that [Kelly] is not that good an interviewer.” She added that she would come back on Kelly’s show “if she comes around and learns her stuff.”
Kelly prepared the script over the weekend and delivered it during the final minutes of Monday’s show. NBC News management was aware of her impending remarks, sources tell THR.
Reaction inside and outside NBC News was swift and extreme. The View panelists — and guest host Ann Curry — tore Kelly apart. Joy Behar called her a “bitch”; minutes later, she apologized, rescinding the epithet. Wendy Williams accused Kelly of doing it “for ratings.” Inside NBC News, the characterizations included “outrageous” and “awful.” One person questioned the wisdom of using NBC News as a platform to “settle a personal score.”
Multiple talent representatives, none of whom would talk on the record, told THR that the Fonda monologue has made them think twice about booking their clients on Megyn Kelly Today. Others said it was the last straw. “Actors don’t trust her,” said one. On Thursday, "Fight Song" singer-songwriter Rachel Platten is booked for an interview.
Of course, in the era of #MeToo, journalists have been emboldened to ask tougher questions of celebrities on red carpets and beyond. (An NBC News representative says Kelly has not lost any bookings since Monday’s show.)
Kelly's show has evolved away from the celebrity-driven vehicle it may have appeared to be in week one, when the NBCUniversal synergy machine stocked Megyn Kelly Today with actors, the vast majority promoting NBCUniversal properties at the beginning of the new TV season.
But since the Harvey Weinstein story broke in early October, Kelly — who was a central voice in the scandal that brought down Fox News CEO Roger Ailes — has forcefully taken up the harassment beat. So much so that days after Matt Lauer was fired from Today amid sexual harassment complaints, she invited Lauer and his accusers on her show — something that raised eyebrows inside NBC News at the time.
But going all in on the scourge of harassment allegations that have rocked Hollywood, the media and beyond has allowed Kelly to appeal to morning TV’s largely female demographic, while not appearing to go soft. (Megyn Kelly Today is averaging close to 3 million viewers and is up year-over-year in key female demographics.) "It's perfect for her," notes TV news analyst Andrew Tyndall.
With the Fonda throwdown — during which Kelly dredged up the actress's controversial antiwar activism, including Fonda's statements about American POWs — Kelly once again waded into America's culture wars.
“Of all the things that she’s staked her career on, likeability is not a factor," adds Tyndall. "What this tells me is that Megyn is trying to carve out the niche for herself, which is 'I’m going to be harder, I’m going to be the hard person at 9.' She is saying, 'I will not back away from asking tough questions even if it makes me look like a bully or rude or crossing a line. It’s better that I have the reputation for asking tough questions.'"