Sources close to Kelly told me today that her departure is an indication of just how unhappy she had become at Fox in the wake of her high-profile feud with Donald Trump and revelations she had accused Ailes of sexual harassment. Her relationships with Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity in particular had completely broken down, one Fox host told me. “Bill hated her,” the host said. As Kelly’s contract negotiations dragged on during her much-publicized book tour, things also grew strained with Rupert Murdoch, two sources said. One Fox insider told me Murdoch balked when Kelly asked for $25 million late in the talks. (A person close to Kelly disputed this, saying that said Kelly never asked for a specific dollar amount and Fox had been offering $25 million all along.)
Inside Fox News, staffers are speculating over who will replace Kelly. According to insiders I spoke with today, the consensus seems to be that the Murdochs will choose a woman to fill her 9 p.m. time slot. The leading internal contenders include Trish Regan, Shannon Bream, Sandra Smith, and Martha MacCallum. Two sources said Kimberly Guilfoyle is lobbying for the job.
The one thing Fox insiders are in agreement on is that whoever replaces Kelly will be a pro-Trump conservative. In the wake of Ailes’s ouster, some media observers speculated that 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch wanted to reposition Fox to the center, bringing it more in line with his moderate political views. But the selection of a pro-Trump host to fill Kelly’s slot would suggest that Fox is instead doubling down on its right-wing politics and planning to align itself with the new administration. After initially being hostile to Trump, Murdoch has made moves to curry favor with the president-elect. Fox insiders told me that Murdoch personally named pro-Trump anchor Tucker Carlson to replace Greta Van Susteren at 7 p.m.