The National Association of Black Journalists is accusing NBC of “whitewashing” after the network announced Wednesday that longtime anchor Tamron Hall is leaving the network.
PEOPLE learned last week that Megyn Kelly, who left Fox News last month for a new role at NBC News, is set to host an hour of the Today Show, replacing the slot held by Hall and her co-anchor Al Roker.
Though Hall was offered a new contract and insiders said the network expected her to stay in her other roles at the Today show and MSNBC, the anchor walked away from the deal.
In a statement released Wednesday, the NABJ shared its disappointment over Hall’s departure, which comes less than a week after PEOPLE learned that Hall and Roker would be replaced in the 9 a.m. slot.
“The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) is saddened by Tamron Hall’s departure from NBC. She broke ground as the first black female Today show cohost and was enjoying ratings success alongside Al Roker during the show’s third hour of programming,” the statement reads.
“NBC has been a leader for diversity in broadcasting, but recent reports that Hall and Roker will be replaced by former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly are being seen by industry professionals as whitewashing,” the statement continues.
“Published reports suggest Kelly will be replacing Today’s Takes, the hour of programming led by Hall and Roker. Roker tweeted last week that the show leads the ratings in its time slot and consistently beats its competition. This achievement deserves praise, not punishment, as replacing talent often is associated with low ratings performance,” NABJ’s statement continues. “Kelly has a well-documented history of offensive remarks regarding people of color. On The Kelly File, her Fox News show, the host said then-First Lady Michelle Obama’s commencement address at Tuskegee University pandered to a ‘culture of victimization.’ ”
The statement concludes: “While NABJ wishes Hall well on her next move, NABJ requests a meeting with NBC leadership on the top-rated show’s dismantling. We look forward to dialogue and resolve regarding black journalists and their continuing roles at NBC both in front and behind the camera.”
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On Thursday, an NBC spokesperson issued the following statement in response to the NABJ: “NBC News has a long and proven history as an industry leader in newsroom diversity. We will continue to engage in the running dialogue we’ve had for many years with the National Association of Black Journalists and other advocacy groups to advance those goals.”
NBC announced on Wednesday that Hall, 46, would be leaving the network after more than 10 years, despite being offered a new contract that NBC felt was very generous.
In addition to viewers, NBC sources tell PEOPLE that the network was very surprised that Hall — who joined MSNBC and NBC in 2007 and became part of the Today team in 2014 as a co-anchor of Today’s Take — chose to leave.
“The last 10 years have been beyond anything I could have imagined, and I’m grateful,” Hall said in a statement released via the network on Wednesday. “I’m also very excited about the next chapter. To all my great colleagues, I will miss you and I will be rooting for you.”