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NBCUniversal Chief on Megyn Kelly, Andy Lack and Future of NBC News

The Megyn Kelly debacle at NBC News has raised the question of whether NBC News chief Andy Lack will face repercussions for the costly experiment. But NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke told Variety on Monday that he is “100% behind Andy” and accepts some blame for the decision recruit Kelly from Fox News in early 2017.

“News organizations like ours should take risks,” Burke said. The decision to hire Kelly was ultimately Burke’s call, he said. “I went over and told (Kelly) she should come here,” Burke recalled.

Last week, Kelly reached a settlement with NBC News that calls for her to receive the remaining $30 million of her $69 million, three-year contract. Kelly’s 9 a.m. “Megyn Kelly Today” hour was canceled in late October after several incidents culminating with her defense of white people donning blackface for Halloween costumes.

“Megyn Kelly was a huge talent. She was at the wrong time of day (on NBC). In hindsight we shouldn’t have done it. But it wasn’t Andy going off rogue,” Burke said.

The public fight with Kelly and other unwelcome headlines for NBC News — including the firing of “Today” stalwart in November 2017 over sexual misconduct allegations — has stirred speculation about changes at NBC News. Burke defended his news chief and asserted his hope that Lack’s No. 2, NBC News president Noah Oppenheim, will eventually succeed Lack.

“I’m 100 percent behind Andy,” Burke said. “When the drumbeat began of ‘You gotta fire this guy’ — a lot of that was really unfair. Matt Lauer was a grenade that we didn’t know was a grenade. I was here seven years and I thought Matt Lauer was the greatest interviewer in news.”

Despite the public controversies, Burke emphasized the quality of NBC News’ work and his confidence in the current leadership team.

“I still have full faith in (Lack), and Noah is extraordinary. He’s going to end up running NBC News after Andy retires.” Burke said. “He’s really good.”

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