Fired head writer of 'Megyn Kelly Today' claims toxic work environment, bullying of staff at NBC News

The head writer of Megyn Kelly’s hour of NBC's “Today” said this week that he was fired from the show after complaining directly to embattled NBC News president Noah Oppenheim about the show’s toxic workplace environment of bullying and harassment — and he’s unleashing a torrent of criticism against the show's top two producers, claiming they created the mess.

Now-former head writer Kevin Bleyer sent an email to the show’s staff alleging a chaotic and abusive workplace where employees -- including female assistants -- were “abused and harassed” by potty-mouthed executives who “scapegoat” and curse up a storm at work, according to the The Daily Mail, which obtained and published the lengthy email.

Bleyer, an Emmy Award winning writer, wrote: “It is a special absurdity — and what some find a hard-to-swallow injustice — that as a team we’ve been lauded for covering harassment stories daily on air, while the staff producing those stories feels so embattled and bullied themselves.”

The email was sent Tuesday to colleagues after Bleyer was fired following his complaints about the show’s two lead producers, Jackie Levin and Christine Cataldi, complaints he'd made formally to both Oppenheim and NBC’s human resources department, according to The New York Post and The Daily Mail. Levin reportedly fired Bleyer Monday.

Bleyer never suggested that Kelly was responsible for, or even aware of, the alleged abuse. NBC insiders said that Kelly trusts her executive producer, Jackie Levin, who was handpicked by Oppenheim and enjoys his protection. The current situation at “Megyn Kelly Today,” insiders said, is another example of NBC News executives looking out for powerful talent at the expense of beleaguered staff— the same situation that may have allowed Matt Lauer’s alleged abuses to flourish in the years prior to his shock termination.

“We don't believe that Megyn had any idea that this is happening. Jackie manages up well and Megyn is no doubt under the impression that all is well on her show. Put simply – it's not,” the Daily Mail reported, citing an “NBC News insider.”

Fox News has learned that there are indeed multiple HR complaints — not just from Bleyer — regarding management of “Megyn Kelly Today.” Like Bleyer’s, these complaints alleged cluelessness and verbally abusive behavior by harried managers and not by Kelly.

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 1: Noah Oppenheim participates in a panel discussion after the premiere of Fox Searchlight Pictures "Jackie" at the Newseum on December 1, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Larry French/Fox/PictureGroup)

NBC News president Noah Oppenheim oversees “Megyn Kelly Today.”  (2016 FOX)

“HR and Noah don’t care,” an NBC insider said, adding that removing Levin would publicly expose the hour’s instability at a sensitive time for Oppenheim, who’s battling criticism for the show’s uneven start.

The raft of HR complaints have come, ironically, while “Megyn Kelly Today" has focused aggressively on the “Me Too” movement and frequently calls for women to stand up to harassment and misconduct in the workplace. “We hope that Megyn sees this and speaks up. She has the power to change this,” the insider told the Daily Mail.

Bleyer claimed that when he gave constructive criticism about a mistake that Levin had made, he was called a “f------ whiner.” He also said she used NBC resources to edit her son’s singing group’s video. Furthermore, he alleged that Levin and Cataldi are belittling to their assistants and lashed out at beloved producer Matt Greenfield for “his tone.” 

In his email — which Fox News has verified was indeed sent by Bleyer to all show staff except for Levin, Cataldi and Kelly — Bleyer described the NBC News executives as “amateur hour” and said other producers were picking up the slack, while an NBC insider told the publication, “The working environment on ‘Megyn Kelly Today’ is completely toxic. It is hypocritical that a show that has positioned itself as a safe place for those who are victims, has staff that feel like they are being harassed and abused.”

But an NBC News spokesperson told The Daily Mail: “Jackie and Christine are being attacked unfairly. They are both excellent and experienced producers, and have the full support of everyone here. They, and the team, are fully focused on continuing the show's momentum as it continues to climb in the ratings.”

Furthermore, NBC reps told “The New York Post” that Bleyer “was let go for one reason only: he was the wrong fit for this role, as a comedy writer at a morning news broadcast.”

Kevin Bleyer

Kevin Bleyer didn’t blame the network’s issues on Megyn Kelly herself.

NBC's reps did not immediately respond to Fox News’ requests for additional comment.

Bleyer is an Emmy Award-winning writer who also helped write President Obama’s comedic speeches. He has also worked with Dennis Miller, Jon Stewart and Bill Maher, in addition to the 44th president, and graduated from prestigious Stanford University. Fox News has learned that Bleyer was specifically recruited to the show by Oppenheim, who wanted to pair Kelly with a high-profile writer.

The allegations in Bleyer's email represented just the latest fallout for NBC, which is still reeling from its firing of Lauer for alleged sexual misconduct.

As Fox News has reported, Oppenheim is one of the executives who has been fending off calls for an independent investigation to look into their ties to Lauer and whether he looked away from or encouraged sexual harassment at NBC News. Parent company Comcast is currently investigating internally but has not been transparent with its findings.

Andrew Lack, NBC's President and Chief Operating Officer, answers
questions from reporters during NBC's Summer Press Tour July 20, 2001,
in Pasadena, California.


NBC News chairman Andy Lack has not been transparent on a variety of issues at the network.

NBC News chairman Andy Lack also recently announced a “culture assessment” of the division he oversees and an assortment of other bureaucratic efforts to combat sex harassment, such as focus groups and mandatory training on workplace behavior. None of the steps taken by NBC News place any blame on Lack or Oppenheim, who are also responsible for spiking two of the biggest stories in recent memory: Ronan Farrow’s reporting that could have outed Harvey Weinstein as a sexual predator months before he was exposed and the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape of Donald Trump making lewd comments about women.

It remains unclear why Lack or Oppenheim decided against running the stories, but Farrow is now receiving Pulitzer Prize buzz and the Trump tape was leaked from within NBC to The Washington Post's David Fahrenthold, who is Oppenheim's friend from the esteemed Harvard University.

Brian Flood covers the media for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter at @briansflood.