Thanks to you all for being part of this adventure. And to those who have reached out to me in the past 24 hours, please forgive this general email response.
Typically, I was not afforded the opportunity to say farewell to any of you – so please know I didn’t shrug you off and certainly didn’t mean to be disrespectful to our friendship by my hasty departure.
Nor did I slink away. Nor am I licking my wounds. Nor do regret speaking up and speaking out. I slept easy last night knowing I wasn’t the bad guy in this story.
And to you, people I respect, in the interest of full disclosure of the plain facts – though in confidence – I have attached the last email I sent to human resources, just prior to being fired by Jackie Levin yesterday morning. I sent the same email to Noah Oppenheim shortly thereafter. It is the most recent in a series of communications with Erin Hogan and Noah over the past months in which I indicated that, for good reason, Jackie Levin had lost the faith, support and goodwill of many on the staff, including myself. The reason, in sum: her incompetence and persistent abusive treatment.
Why? I wanted you to know you’re not alone. I was fighting the good fight up until the moment they took my badge away, and will continue to do so. Bullying and abusive behavior like hers should not go unchecked or unchallenged anywhere. I hope you’ll carry that torch within 30 Rock.
I am a firm believer that it is never too late to do the right thing. Perhaps NBC will.
Do let me know how things progress.
First, a belated happy New Year to you.
I want to thank you again for your attention and patience over the last few months — I respect and appreciate how much is on your plate. Considering the news at NBC recently, I recognize that emergent priorities are emergent priorities, and hopefully 2018 can be a somewhat less chaotic adventure.
Frankly, considering how much was in your inbox, I don’t even expect that you’ll have the opportunity to attend to this email, but I had promised to follow up after our meeting in November.
As for what has transpired at Megyn Kelly Today since November, please bear with the next paragraph.
I’m sad to say, speaking candidly and confidentially, the executive incompetence continues — as does the dysfunctional management, abusive treatment, maddening hypocrisy, staggering inefficiencies, acidic and deficient communication, and relentless scapegoating.
Jackie Levin persists in creating a toxic and demeaning environment, and Christine Cataldi enables and reinforces it. Amendments to their behavior since we last spoke have been marginal, patently cosmetic, and superficially employed clearly in order to tell themselves – and perhaps you – they are doing what have been told to do to ‘make nice.’ The antagonism remains.
Just last week, when I provided a constructive suggestion (to correct a mistake Jackie had made, but didn’t want to admit), she called me a ‘fucking whiner.’
To state the obvious, I am not a whiner. And if I am a whiner, so are dozens of the people who work for Jackie.
It’s clear they present themselves – and likely to you directly – as having to suffer fools. Not so; that interpretation is wholly upside down. Jackie is not pulling the sword from the stone, as she no doubt presents herself to you; this show makes air despite her management, not because of it.
At the staff level, a number of talented people have stepped up; at the executive level, this is amateur hour — where befuddlement turns into abuse.
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.
As a result, veteran staffers are looking for the exits. You should know that previously, some producers had made a mutual agreement that they’d stick it out through the holidays, but that if something profound didn’t change by then or soon after — namely, if alterations weren’t made to the management — they intended to leave. (I can’t say if that agreement is still in effect or not.)
Others have told me they’d ask to be reassigned elsewhere within NBC. I should add that many of those who have confided in me have made it plain: sensitivity training will not suffice. Their feeling is you can’t change these tigers’ stripes.
More practically, this show lacks the required leadership (or the goodwill from the support staff toward management) to graduate from amateurish functionality.
Abusive behavior aside, Jackie’s inability to prioritize or follow a sensible workflow makes the day inefficient and chaotic. With her holding the reins, we are hamstrung to mediocrity.
Are we making air? Yes. But the process of creating this show will not get significantly better with her leading the way, not least because others no longer feel motivated to follow.
Yet the sense here is that there are no plans for significant change, which frustrates many.
True, I too am puzzled by what seems to be an inexplicable commitment to keeping the executive management intact. And yet — while I can’t understand it, I allow for the possibility that there are many other factions that go into that decision. But many others on the staff have simply had enough.
One further and vital thought: I know Jackie and Christine previously intended (and perhaps still do intend) to replace staffers who offer any kind of pushback or speak up for themselves. I have personally overheard these conversations myself. If that happens — if there is any retaliation at all — I anticipate there may be further action through official legal avenues.
This ain’t about me, but for my part, a number of my NBC colleagues have asked me not to resign. To be clear: I don’t intend to. I am part of the solution, not the problem, and I keep the faith that this can become a place where incompetence isn’t sanctioned, and where we all feel respected and appreciated.
Anyhow, I promised an accounting of specifics since November, and they are listed below. Again, I know how busy you are, and this could read as more of the same; nevertheless, they illustrate continued incompetence and persistent disrespectful treatment since our conversation.
(They are listed chronologically, although they vary quite a bit in degree; some may even seem trivial, but some are most definitely not. I assure you they compound and other staffers would say the same.)
On Monday 11/13, further evidence that Jackie doesn’t know — and doesn’t intend to learn — a rudimentary and necessary element of television production: how to use iNEWS, and how to read a rundown. And when confronted with this fact, she lashes out.
Me: ‘Where would you like that tease — in the F block or the G block?’ Jackie, angrily: ‘I don’t know — whichever is the end of the show!’
To explain, the rundown is simply alphabetized, A to G.
On Monday 11/13, fifteen seconds after the show had started, Jackie realized that fact and said loudly to the control room, ‘Oh s***, the show is starting!’…to repeat, this occurred fifteen seconds after the show had already started.
(As a reminder from previous emails — Jackie is often attending to other irrelevant things in the minutes before showtime, such as getting on the phone to arrange for her son’s medical prescriptions. As you may recall, it was this kind of distraction that caused both Jackie and Christine to fail to address concerns from Legal regarding the script, and opening NBC to liability.)
On Monday 11/13, Jackie sent an aggressively accusatory email declaring that ‘there are too many emails’ and that she can’t expect anyone to keep up with them. This is jawdropping since, as I’ve reported to you, she is the one insisting on all the emails, because — again — she stubbornly refuses to learn iNEWS.
(By my count, her refusal to learn iNEWS has already resulted in easily more than 100 hours of lost productivity for me alone…and counting. I spend an hour every day cutting and pasting. If that 100 hours had been spent on something important, so much more could have been accomplished.)
On Tuesday 11/14, Jackie rewrote a script, leaving it in evidently poorer shape and ham-fisted English. When Megyn disliked her new script, Jackie implied I had written it. I most definitely had not.
On Tuesday 11/14, at 8:55am, minutes before airtime, Jackie panicked and interrupted everyone as they were preparing for the show: ‘Hey guys, I totally forgot! We need to kill Facebook Live!’
Facebook Live happens *after* the show — it was not even close to a crunchtime priority. Then she announced: ‘I never get mosquito bites and now I have them!’ This, as staffers were trying to confirm last-minute adjustments.
On Tuesday 11/14, we had on the show the district attorney representing the Penn State hazing victim. After the show, Jackie said of the district attorney (who had recently lost reelection): ‘Thanks, goodbye, You got fired. We’re never having you on the show again. Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.’
I can’t put this in context, because I don’t know the context. I can’t conceive of the context. Perhaps she was trying to be funny?
On Tuesday 11/14, she said: ‘Jeez, this is a long commercial break. Are they always this long?’
On Tuesday 11/14, Christine announced in the A-block production meeting that former Press Secretary Sean Spicer had weighed in on sexual harassment scandal — a development that flabbergasted everyone. People started to research, and found nothing. The person who had actually weighed in (and whom we had already been discussing in the meeting) was Rep. Jackie Speier. Speier, not Spicer.
On Wednesday 11/15, 30 minutes before airtime, as producer Megan Wheeler was crashing to get a segment completed and an edit finished (in other words, at a time when time is of the essence) Jackie apparently believed the right thing to do was call Megan and ask, well, nothing. Just nothing. She just made Megan stop what she’s doing and answer the phone.
Jackie did the same to me the week previous, when I was trying to write the A-block script on deadline in order to submit it to legal for last-minute approval.
(The conversation: Me: ‘Hello?’ Jackie: ‘Hi, it’s Jackie.’ (Long beat.) Me: ‘Yes?’ Jackie: ‘Are you writing the A-block script?’ Me: ‘I am, yes.’ (10 seconds go by) Jackie: ‘Oh, okay.’ She hangs up.) The point is, her choice is to get in the way rather than trust her employees to do their jobs. That is not good management; that is terrible judgment.
On Wednesday 11/15, at 8:40 am, twenty minutes before airtime — as everyone else is making sure the show is ready to go, Jackie and Christine are poring over pictures online about Christine’s bathroom renovation.
On Wednesday 11/15, during the show, Jackie shushed the director while he was calling camera shots. She has done this a number of times.
On Thursday 11/16, Jackie flipped the rundown FIVE times. Five times. Causing everyone to quickly scramble to change course five times.
On Thursday 11/16, when Allie asked Jackie how she would prefer the graphics department handle a particular graphic, Jackie’s response: ‘I don’t care. Let them figure it out.’
On Thursday 11/16, Jackie’s immediate (and unwarranted) panic about an element on the show caused confusion in the control room, keeping Allie from alerting Megyn about required on-camera reads — reads that were demanded by legal & standards.
On Thursday 11/16, at the end of a segment entitled ‘Downtime vs. No Time,’ Jackie got angry that the guest kept saying ‘downtime.’ When it was clarified to Jackie that ‘Downtime’ was the name of the segment (and its entire premise), Jackie said, ‘Oh! I had no idea!’
On Friday 11/17, after legal insisted that we include an important amendment to the script about Sen. Franken, she didn’t want to go into iNews to read the most recent version…she wanted me to read it to her, aloud, in an already chaotic control room.
On Friday 11/17, I had to explain to Jackie what ‘allegedly’ meant in context. She wanted a sentence to say ‘Tweeden has accused Franken of allegedly groping her.’ I explained that in this context, per legal, ‘allegedly’ is not needed — that the accusation is groping, not ‘allegedly groping.’ This angered her.
On Friday 11/17, at 9:12am, when it was pointed out that she needed to weigh in on a impending decision, she said sarcastically to the control room, during the live taping: ‘Please remind me of my job. I don’t know what it is again.’ Had the person not brought up the issue in time, she would have been furious.
On Monday 11/20, in the control room twenty minutes before airtime when I was busy rewriting Megyn’s script, Jackie yet again made me *read* her the script ALOUD from iNEWS instead of reading it herself in iNEWS…an absurd waste of my time which adding confusion because she couldn’t keep straight what part of the script was where. Then, at one minute to air, Jackie said of iNEWS: ‘I refuse to use it.’ (In other words, her ignorance and incompetence isn’t just stubborn, it’s willful.)
On Monday 11/20, there was an important executive editorial decision to be made — legal had made a recommended change to a script, but said explicitly it was a judgment call. Jackie didn’t want to read the script and just said, ‘make the changes.’
When I explained that is was not a simple case of just ‘making the changes,’ and that Jackie needed to determine what changes needed to be made, she got angry and condescending to me. However, I didn’t back down and reasserted that this is her decision.
(It became clear to most people within earshot that the real issue was Jackie truly didn’t actually understand the editorial judgment call to be made.)
She lashed out at me, angry that I was not simply doing her bidding — and frankly, that I wasn’t doing her job. For a number of days following, she spoke to me with undue impatience and misplaced, offensive condescension.
On Tuesday, 11/21, she asked a question about affiliate promos via email — sent to multiple people — ‘Do we really have to do this?’ No one answered. When I then helpfully queried, ‘who are you asking?’ She responded, ‘anyone who will listen.’
On Tuesday 11/21, at 8:30am, Jackie didn’t seem to understand that pressing the spacebar five times is not the same as pressing Tab, causing her to get upset.
On Tuesday 11/21, at 8:31, we received an important email message from Ian McBride: ‘We need to say that Ailes has always denied the claims.’
Jackie verbal response: ‘Nope, not gonna say it. She’s not gonna say it.’ And then told Christine to not bother putting it in the script. Only when I responded did Christine reluctantly agree to putting it in the script.
On Tuesday 11/21, at 9:03, Christine misspelled a chyron (‘sexual harrassment’ [sic]) when we went to air. When caught too late, Christine blamed it on ‘information she was sent’. Just one example of scapegoating she would never accept from others. (Minutes later, she was texting pictures of her daughter to someone during the show.)
On Tuesday 11/21, at 12:10pm, we launched into a (post-taped) show using — no other way to put this — THE WRONG RUNDOWN.
(And hence, the wrong prompter copy and wrong director cues). Christine didn’t notice until after the first segment and not until I alerted her to the fact. Significant changes had been made and Megyn would surely have noticed. (Thank heavens it wasn’t a live shot.)
When Christine thought I was wrong, she condescended to me. When she soon realized that *she* was wrong, she made no apology.
On Tuesday 11/21, yet another rundown meeting did not start on time, and when people had to move on to other things, Jackie was upset they were not available when she finally wanted them.
Of the 60 or so rundown meetings we have had, I believe *two* of them have started within five minutes of the scheduled time. They are routinely more than an hour late, and some have started more than *four* hours late — with no advance warning. (And when they do start, Jackie and Christine are annoyed if people have left their desk for a moment and have to be summoned back.)
On Wednesday 11/22, Christine was dismissive to producer Kate Uebergang when Kate was rightly speaking up for herself, and for a guest. The upshot: Kate was explaining the guest’s concern about a cooking segment — explaining that an ‘egg cream pie’ is popular among African-Americans in the South — and Christine shut her down saying ‘I don’t care. Tell her to do something else.’
On Wednesday 11/22, three minutes to air, Jackie couldn’t find something she needed in an email, and said this, ‘FUCKING A!’ She then got in Megyn’s IFB and implied that producer MaryBeth Neil hadn’t sent the information (in the email Jackie couldn’t find). When Christine weighed in, she referred to MaryBeth as ‘whats-her-face, MaryBeth.’
On Sunday 11/26, Jackie announced to everyone on the weekly Sunday conference call, ‘Oh s***, I forgot to watch the show on Friday. I hope it went well.’ She laughed.
On Sunday 11/26, Jackie and Christine neglected to alert Vivian that her segment had been cancelled. They only told her *after* she had traveled into the office from Long Island.
On Monday 11/27, Jackie revealed that she hadn’t read Megyn’s text from an hour previous asking that the show order be changed.
On Tuesday 11/28, Jackie was not in the office in the morning, and therefore not in the control room. It must be said the show went more smoothly – and the control room was less chaotic – than any previous morning in the three months this show has been on the air.
On Tuesday 11/28, after Jackie postponed a daily noon meeting to 12:30pm — and therefore those of us expected to attend the meeting made plans accordingly — we received an email at 12:18pm saying the meeting was starting ‘now’ and that we were expected in her office immediately.
I was on a different floor at the time, and therefore arrived ‘late’ at 12:30pm. The meeting had started without me — even though I was exactly on time — and information that was not relayed to me caused confusion later.
On Wednesday 11/29, four minutes to air time, Jackie laughed and said, ‘I don’t even know what we’re doing in the show today.’
On Wednesday 11/29, at two minutes to air, in a panic Jackie asked, ‘DID WE SWITCH THE COPY?!’ but refused to look in iNEWS to find out.
On Wednesday 11/29 in a A block meeting, Jackie joked again how she refuses to use iNews. Again, that is a huge waste of time and resources — mine and others.
On Thursday 11/30, fifteen minutes before airtime, while Allie was trying to get Christine to screen the produced open, Christine was dictating into her phone — out loud — a text to her husband about where to hold people for a party of some sort.
On Friday, 12/1, Jackie ‘corrected’ my script to everyone on an email chain saying that I had listed the name of a guest’s book twice. I had not. She was reading a script in email, where it is listed twice because that is what happens when you have to cut and paste a script from iNEWS.
(She could not decipher that the book was listed as both a GFX and a mention in prompter.) So again, her obstinate refusal to use iNEWS created both a) inefficiencies and frustrations, and b) an opportunity for her to leap to ‘correct’ me…when it was really her fault.
On Friday, 12/1, literally seconds before airtime, and moments after Christine ‘shooshed’ the graphics producer, Jackie spoke loudly about the food she was eating. The hypocrisy is staggering.
On Friday, 12/1, THREE TIMES we lost vital seconds because Jackie refused to access the current script in iNEWS.
On Friday, 12/1, while the control room was trying to communicate with one another, Christine was *dictating* a text message into her iPhone — causing confusion about whether Michael Flynn was pleading ‘guilty’ or just pleading.
On Friday, 12/1, yet another unacceptable case of scapegoating. Christine hadn’t updated the checker, and when Megyn questioned why a tease wasn’t accurate (Christine’s fault), she blamed me and others. Megyn was left (and is still left) to believe that it was my fault. It was not.
On Tuesday, 12/5, in the hour before air, Jackie asked for help turning on her computer volume *in the control room*. Why? So that she could play loudly the duet her son just released. She turned up the volume and went around the room asking if everyone thought her son would be the next hit singer/songwriter.
On Monday, 12/11, Jackie said aloud, during the show: ‘What block are we in? I don’t even know.’
On Wednesday, 12/13: Jackie distracted everyone one two minutes before air to tell us that her (father?) has officially weighed in on how many candles we should have on the menorrah. There were far more things to discuss.
On Wednesday, 12/13: Christine took credit from Megyn for a script that I had written. I don’t really care — but it happened.
On Thursday 12/14: Jackie constantly peppered me (at pre-show crunch time when I, everyone else, was very busy) with questions that could easily have been answered if she simply would consult iNEWS like every other producer in this building.
On Thursday 12/14: Jackie insisted that a certain phrase ‘it was never in the script that way!’ and when I pointed out it most definitely was in the script that way, she insisted again, ‘It was never that way.’ When I showed her the email proving it had been, she huffed and changed the subject.
On Thursday 12/14, Christine reprimanded (in front of many) veteran producer Matt Greenfield for ‘his tone.’ *His* tone? HIS TONE?! That is the height of hypocrisy.
On Thursday 12/14: Jackie said, exasperated: ‘Is this show over yet?!’ She was the only one who wasn’t working on hard on finishing the show.
On Friday 12/15: Jackie unilaterally changed — and made patently worse — two of my scripts. When Megyn balked at the new copy, Jackie blamed me.
On Friday, 12/15, as the show was starting: Jackie panicked, ‘OH, ARE WE STARTING THE SHOW?! OH MY GOD. I HONESTLY DIDN’T KNOW. I GUESS MY HEAD’S ALREADY ON VACATION.’
On Monday 12/18: fifteen minutes before airtime, Jackie turned to her assistant Phoebe (who was helping prep for the show at the time), and this exchange (irrelevant to the show) happened:
Jackie: ‘Did you ever get me the name of a store manager at Best Buy?’
Phoebe: ‘Um, You never asked me for one.’
Jackie (immediately annoyed and accusatory): ‘I know. But I need you to get me one.’
[It is this kind of narcissism — where she thinks she’s already asked for things that are only in her mind, that routinely puts her employees on the defensive.]
On Tuesday 12/19, while producer Alllie and I were communicating vital information in the control room, Jackie ‘shushed’ us three times so she could listen to something irrelevant. To repeat, we were trying to get the show accomplished; she was not.
On Wednesday 12/20, Jackie revised material she had *already* approved, and when politely notified of this fact, she angrily insisted to she had never approved it (rather than sit with the knowledge that her ‘approvals’ are arbitrary and her judgment of quality suspect).
On Wednesday, 12/20, when it was announced that we would not be rolling two pre-produced segments for the audience, I said ‘might I ask why?’ (since it would affect the script). Jackie’s response? ‘No.’
On Friday, 12/22, minutes before the show, Jackie and Christine were so obsessed with finding Jackie’s son Theo in the oaudience and Christine failed to approve an A block script in time.
On Wednesday, 1/3, Jackie didn’t know who was supposed to cut B-roll for a tease (she had sent the email to about a dozen people) and got upset when it wasn’t done. She had not clarified who she was asking. When I informed her the B-roll therefore wasn’t cut, she got upset at ME. (As if it were my responsibility, which it most definitely was not. Again, she doesn’t know who does what, and hates when that fact is pointed out.)
On Wednesday, 1/3, Christine hastily ‘corrected’ a script of mine that Jackie had *already* approved, and she added factual errors to it. Megyn then read the factually incorrect script. Later, when Megyn assumed I had made the error, Jackie and Christine let her believe it. Unacceptable scapegoating.
On Wednesday 1/3, when I offered politely that Megyn wouldn’t have to wait for a rewrite if Jackie could review the affiliate promos prior to the show (as per the workflow), Jackie called me a ‘f***ing whiner.’ It was not said as a joke. It was unwarranted, and unjustified, and abusive. And unacceptable.
This is when I stopped taking notes.
What’s more, it should also be known that Christine routinely speaks of her assistant Katrina as ‘an idiot.’ Katrina is not an idiot.
And that Jackie has insisted that our director, producers and editors to use NBC resources to edit a music video for her son’s college a capella group. They didn’t feel they could tell her no.