Tamron Hall's exit from NBC 'Today' seen as 'whitewashing,' black journalists group says

The National Assn. of Black Journalists has taken aim at NBC News over the sudden departure of Tamron Hall, the most prominent female African American anchor at the network.

Hall decided to leave NBC instead of taking a new role at “Today” as part of a new multiyear contract. She recently learned she would be losing her co-anchor slot on the 9 a.m. hour of “Today.”

The morning program is being cut by an hour to make room for a new daytime talk show with Megyn Kelly, the former Fox News anchor who signed with NBC News.

But the move drew a swift response from the NABJ, which said it was particularly troubled that Hall’s “Today” hour is going to Kelly, who is joining NBC from the politically right-leaning Fox News.

“The National Association of Black Journalists is saddened by Tamron Hall’s departure from NBC,” the organization said. “She broke ground as the first black female ‘Today Show’ co-host and was enjoying ratings success alongside Al Roker during the show’s third hour of programming. 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.”

Hall, 46, made history on “Today” when in 2014 she became the first African American woman to serve as a co-anchor in the program’s 65-year history. In addition to being seen daily in the 9 a.m. hour, she was a frequent fill-in for main co-anchors Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie. She also was a daytime anchor on cable network MSNBC.

NBC News defended its diversity record in response to the NABJ’s statement.

“NBC News has a long and proven history as an industry leader in newsroom diversity,” the network said in a statement. “We will continue to engage in the running dialogue we’ve had for many years with the National Assn. of Black Journalists and other advocacy groups to advance those goals.”

In 2016, the organization gave “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt — the first African American to be the solo anchor of a network evening newscast —  its journalist of the year award.

NBC offered Hall a significant financial incentive to stay with the network, according to people familiar with the discussions who were not authorized to comment.

Hall is not commenting beyond a statement she released through NBC.

“The last ten years have been beyond anything I could have imagined, and I’m grateful,” Hall said. “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.”

Hall first joined NBC News in 2007 after local news stints in Chicago and Dallas. She was also seen as a daytime news anchor on cable network MSNBC.

NBC News faced questions about its commitment to having a diverse on-air line-up last year when it decided to move its cable network MSNBC away from left-leaning commentary during the day. As part of that shift, two African American hosts — Joy Reid and the Rev. Al Sharpton — lost their daily programs (along with a number of white hosts including Ronan Farrow and Ed Schultz). The company also parted ways with another African American commentator, Melissa Harris-Perry, who was upset over preemptions of her weekend program for political coverage.

Reid is now a weekend host at MSNBC, while Sharpton has a Sunday show.

Roker, the weather anchor for “Today,” will continue to co-anchor the 9 a.m. hour until the program is replaced in the fall, an NBC News representative said. If Kelly’s new program airs at 10 a.m., the “Today” co-hosts in that hour, Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford, will move to 9 a.m.

No decision has been made on the replacement for Hall on MSNBC.

stephen.battaglio@latimes.com

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio

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UPDATES:

Feb. 2, 1:15 p.m.: This article was updated with a response from NBC.

6:40 p.m.: This article was updated with a statement from the National Assn. of Black Journalists.

This article was originally published Feb. 1 at 1:50 p.m.

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