Megyn Kelly’s slot of the Today show desperately needs a ratings boost after less than a month on the air.
On Thursday, Hoda Kotb, the ever-upbeat popular Today host from another hour appeared as a guest. They chatted. They danced. They tried to get the audience on its feet dancing, too.
Critics hated the moment.
“I’ve never been so embarrassed,” tweeted BuzzFeed News’s Kate Aurthur. “I feel nothing but second-hand embarrassment for Megyn Kelly,” chimed in media critic Ian Miles Cheong. Vulture called the clip “22 nearly unbearable seconds.”
Last year, Kelly was a rising star on Fox News, earning national headlines for her dogged questioning of presidential candidate Donald Trump. But her short tenure on NBC’s Megyn Kelly Today continues to be challenging both for her and the network.
The show premiered on Sept. 25, and its ratings continue to tank.
The fallout is so worrisome to the network that other Today hosts have begun visiting Kelly’s show as if on a rescue mission, according to the trade publications. Matt Lauer, Al Roker and Savannah Guthrie all recently appeared. It could be “a strategic way to familiarize viewers with faces they already know and boost viewership,” according to Variety.
Her ratings aren’t even close to those of her predecessors, Tamron Hall and Al Roker, compared to their show during the same time-slot last year. During her debut week, Kelly’s show was down 12 percent in total viewership from that time slot last year. The second week brought in 24 percent fewer viewers, and the third week saw a 23 percent smaller audience, according to Nielsen data obtained by Variety.
Meanwhile, the show’s biggest direct competitor, ABC’s Live With Kelly and Ryan, has a healthy lead over Megyn Kelly. The ABC program drew 14 percent more viewers than Kelly during her first week and a robust 34 percent more during her second, according to Nielsen data obtained by BuzzFeed News.
Kelly’s show has been riddled with problems from the jump.
During the first week, she angered Will & Grace star Debra Messing by asking one of the show’s fans if he was homosexual because of the sitcom’s lead character, a gay lawyer named Will. Days later, she insulted Jane Fonda by asking the 79-year-old actress about her plastic surgery. Fonda was on the show with Robert Redford to promote their movie “Our Souls at Night.”
As time went on, the gaffes grew and her audience shrank.
Some problems weren’t her fault, such as when a cameraman walked on-screen while Kelly was interviewing soccer player Carli Lloyd. The cameraman then could be audibly heard muttering an expletive, which wasn’t bleeped since the show is aired live.
Other problems, though, fell entirely on Kelly’s shoulders. For instance, two days after a gunman killed 58 people and injured hundreds more in the Las Vegas mass shooting, she interrupted Tom Brokaw as the former NBC Nightly News anchor spoke out against the NRA. Kelly spoke over Brokaw, saying “Yep. Yep, got it. Gotta leave it at that, Tom. . . . We’re up against a hard break.”
The backlash was swift.
“Megyn Kelly cutting off Tom Brokaw while he rails against the NRA is exactly why this woman has no place on TV,” Vogue culture writer Patricia Garcia said.
Kelly is now reportedly having trouble booking celebrity guests, unlike the other blocs of Today, according to Variety.
“I’m not booking anyone on her show,” one publicist, who requested not to be named, told the trade publication. “I literally haven’t pitched anyone even from right out the gate. The buzz that is out there is so bad.”
An NBC spokesperson denied the report.
Still, on many days, Kelly doesn’t have celebrities on her show at all, which is unusual for the “Today” franchise. Instead, she often relies on lifestyle stories and pretaped features. One recent nearly five-and-a-half-minute segment, for example, followed Kelly and her real-life family as they went camping.
“Sadly, I haven’t spent a lot of time outdoors since I moved to New York,” Kelly said. “I feel the disconnect — and I miss it.”