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NBC News, Megyn Kelly reach separation agreement

NEW YORK — NBC News announced its professional divorce agreement with Megyn Kelly late Friday, ending an association with the former Fox News Channel star whose attempt to become a network morning television star as part of the “Today” show floundered.

Terms were not disclosed. Kelly was in the second of a three-year contract that reportedly paid her more than $20 million a year.

She’s been off the air since October after creating a furor by suggesting that it was OK for white people to wear blackface on Halloween, and exit negotiations had dragged for two months over the holidays. Even before the controversial commentary, her future was considered limited at NBC News.

“The parties have resolved their differences, and Megyn Kelly is no longer an employee of NBC,” the network said in a statement Friday night.

NBC says she’ll be replaced in the third hour of the “Today” show by anchors Craig Melvin, Al Roker, Dylan Dreyer and Sheinelle Jones.

Her tenure was also a failure for NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack, who lured her from Fox News Channel with the type of big-money contract that was once standard in television news but now is less so with financial constrictions and less viewership. In a sense, Kelly was caught in a no-woman’s land: some at NBC were suspicious of her because of the Fox News background, while her former audience at Fox resented her for tough questioning of Donald Trump on the presidential campaign trail.

While at Fox, her accusations of unwanted sexual advances by the network’s late chief executive, Roger Ailes, helped lead to his firing.

She made news at NBC when interviewing women who accused Trump of inappropriate behaviour and s poke with accusers of Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, Roy Moore and others, as well as women who say they were harassed on Capitol Hill. The episode with Trump accusers had more than 2.9 million viewers, one of her biggest audiences on the network.

Time magazine, which honoured “The Silence Breakers” as its Person of the Year in 2017, cited Kelly as the group’s leader in the entertainment field.

But tough segments on accusations against former NBC anchor Matt Lauer didn’t win her friends internally, as did her public call for Lack to appoint outside investigators to look into why the network didn’t air Ronan Farrow’s stories about Harvey Weinstein and allowed Farrow to take his story to The New Yorker.

When those stories began to fade, Kelly had trouble attracting an audience in the soft-focus world of morning television. She also briefly hosted an evening newsmagazine that didn’t catch on with viewers.

Kelly made a tearful apology to viewers following her blackface comments, but it proved to be her last appearance on NBC News.

“What is racist?” she said on the show. “Truly, 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 a character.”

Critics accused her of ignoring the ugly history of minstrel shows and movies in which whites applied blackface to mock blacks.

It’s not immediately clear what’s next for Kelly. NBC would not comment Friday on whether the separation agreement allows her to write about her experiences at the network.

There’s no non-compete clause, meaning Kelly is free to seek other television work if she wants to.

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AP Writer Mark Kennedy in New York contributed to this report.

David Bauder, The Associated Press