Megyn Kelly has Jane Fonda's sympathy, even though they didn't get off to a good start on Kelly's since-canceled NBC show
The 80-year-old actress told Entertainment Tonight at Thursday night’s Women’s Media Center Awards in New York City that she feels “badly” for Kelly, 47, whose show, Megyn Kelly Today, was recently canceled after her offensive comments about wearing blackface for Halloween.
“I feel badly, because, you know, I wanted her to make it, I did,” the Grace and Frankie star said to the outlet, adding, “That’s always how everyone learns is through making mistakes, you know. It’s through failure that we grow and learn. I know that has been true for me, and I think it is for everybody, yeah.”
Fonda had a special impact on Kelly’s hour of Today, as one of the show’s first scandals involved Kelly asking the Oscar winner about her plastic surgery.
“You’ve been an example to everyone in how to age beautifully and with strength and unapologetically,” Kelly told her in September 2017. “You admit that you’ve had work done, which I think is to your credit. And you look amazing. Why did you say, I read that you said, you’re not proud to admit you had work done. Why not?”
Fonda appeared uncomfortable by the question last year. Staring back Kelly with bewilderment, she paused for a few seconds before finally asking, “We really want to talk about that right now?”
Kelly tried to recover. “Well, one of the things people think when they look at you is how amazing you look,” she continued, attempting to get Fonda to budge.
It didn’t work. “Well, thanks,” Fonda said. “Good attitude, good posture, take care of myself — but let me tell you why I love this movie, Our Souls at Night, rather than plastic surgery.”
Shortly after, Fonda spoke to Variety about the incident, telling the outlet, “It wasn’t like I was upset. I was stunned. It was so inappropriate. It showed that she’s not that good of an interviewer.”
In January 2018, Kelly acknowledged the awkwardness of the moment but maintained that she believed she did nothing wrong.
“The truth is, most older women look nothing like Fonda, who is now 80,” the former Fox News anchor said on her show. “And if Fonda really wants to have an honest discussion about older women’s cultural face, then her plastic surgery is tough to ignore. Fonda herself knows this, and that is why — to her credit — she’s discussed her cosmetic surgery pretty much everywhere before coming on our show.”
She continued: “Look, I gave her a chance to empower other women, young and old, on a subject which she purports to know well, and she rejected it — that’s okay. But I have no regrets about that question, nor am I in the market for a lesson from Jane Fonda on what is and is not appropriate. After all, this is a woman whose name is synonymous with outrage.”
Kelly then addressed Fonda’s controversial actions during the Vietnam War, including calling prisoners of wars “hypocrites and liars” whose torture was “understandable,” attempting to shame troops through radio broadcasts and posing on an anti-aircraft gun used against American pilots. Kelly also noted that Fonda apologized years later for the gun photo but claimed she still says she’s not proud of the country, causing many veterans to refer to the actress as “Hanoi Jane.”
“The moral indignation is a little much,” Kelly concluded. “She put her plastic surgery out there. She said she wanted to discuss the plight of older women in America. And honestly, she has no business lecturing anyone on what qualifies as offensive.”
More recently, in an early October interview with Us Weekly, Kelly admitted to regretting the exchange. “I certainly wish I hadn’t put on Jane Fonda,” she reportedly joked while laughing. “That didn’t go well!”
Now, Kelly’s future in TV is in question after the cancellation of her show. On Wednesday, she condemned paparazzi on Twitter for “lurking outside my home day & nite. Finally today I took my kids to school. I went out alone 1st, offered them donuts &begged them to just take their pic of me & to leave my kids alone when they emerged. All were nice. Except the Dailymail…”
In a second post, she added, “The DailyMail 1st published photos of my husb IN OUR HOME & then *did* photog my kids, trailed us to my daughter’s school, & secretly videotaped my 7-yr-old child (her classmates too) & posted it. THIS IS NOT RIGHT.”
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“Despite my efforts to handle this process confidentially, NBC News is allowing the media to run with completely false and irresponsible reports that disparage Megyn by erroneously claiming she has ever asked for more money than her contract requires,” lawyer Bryan Freedman told PEOPLE in a statement. “If NBC News is not the source then they have a responsibility as a news division to correct these false claims. Or are they somehow attempting to use these fabrications for some fictitious advantage in the discussions we’re having? If Andy Lack has lost control, my hope would be that Steve Burke can step in and not permit blatant lies about our discussions to remain uncorrected.”
In response, an NBC spokesperson told PEOPLE: “Unlike Mr. Freedman, who has repeatedly commented to the media throughout the negotiations, we respect the confidentiality of the process, and will have no comment until it reaches its conclusion.”
The ousted talk show host has not appeared live on the air since NBC confirmed last week that her 9 a.m. hour had been axed, and her Today co-workers celebrated Halloween without her Wednesday.
While Megyn Kelly Today is officially done, her future at the network remains unclear. Multiple sources have told PEOPLE that the network and Kelly are hammering out the terms of her exit from NBC News, which is complicated by her $23 million-a-year contract. (She has two years left.)
“They don’t want her there,” one source said, “and she doesn’t want to be there.”
During her show earlier this month, Kelly discussed attempts at universities to discourage “inappropriate and offensive costumes.” The former Fox News host asked: “But what is racist? Because truly, you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface at Halloween or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid, that was okay as long as you were dressing up as like a character.”
Her NBC colleagues condemned her harshly on Today. Craig Melvin called her remarks “indefensible” as well as “ignorant and racist,” and Al Roker insisted she “owes a bigger apology to folks of color around the country.”