Viewers were left wondering what happened when Melissa Francis suddenly stopped appearing on the Fox News airwaves in October 2020. The Little House on the Prairie star started working for Fox Business Network in 2012 and anchored programs like After the Bell on that channel, in addition to being a co-host of the Fox News show Outnumbered. At the time, reports suggested Francis had approached the company with concerns about pay disparity potentially based on gender discrimination.
Nearly two years later, Francis is ready to tell her side of the story. On Friday’s program, she and her lawyer, Kevin Mintzer, joined Megyn to discuss what happened before, during, and after her unplanned departure from Fox and where things stand today.
Fox News Channel vs. Fox Business Channel
As Francis explained, she had only received “very incremental” raises over her eight years working at Fox. “I’d been made a full-time host on Outnumbered, which had millions of viewers,” she said. “Before that, I was a host on Fox Business, which has many, many fewer viewers.”
While she admitted that it “makes sense” someone on FBN would make less than someone on FNC, she assumed her situation would change since she was pulling double duty. “All of a sudden, I had a job on the channel that makes all the money,” she recalled. “The agents have always told me… ‘They pay the people on the channel that makes all the money more of the money than the people on the channel that makes less money.’”
With that in mind, Francis said that she was simply looking to be paid fairly for her work. “It seemed like my expectation was reasonable,” she said. “Again, all I wanted was to be paid what was fair – not a penny more or a penny less.” It was then that she began to sense “something discriminatory going on.”
Pay Disparities at Fox News
Francis chose to represent herself in her contract negotiations, and she learned she would have to meet with then-general counsel at Fox, Dianne Brandi. This alone surprised her. “You have to understand that, at the time, there were two screeners from the Screen Actors Guild – Bombshell and The Loudest Voice – and they had actors playing Dianne Brandi behaving illegally towards women in the Roger Ailes situation,” Francis said. “I thought, ‘Wow, you’re gonna put her in a room alone with a woman to negotiate?’ I wasn’t even aware she was still here.”
The meeting happened over the phone, and Francis said she scripted out all of her facts and figures so they would be “crystal clear.” The conversation started with small talk, but it soon took a turn. “[Brandi] segued right into ‘Are you going to hand this off to somebody else? It’s not common for talent to do this for themselves,’” she recalled. “I said, ‘Look, there’s this disparity.’ And basically I laid it out.”
According to Francis, Brandi interrupted and said, “Whoa, I’m gonna stop you there – this is not the way you want to do this. You do not want to compare yourself to other people.” Francis agreed. “I said, ‘No, I’m not comparing myself to other people.’ I’m saying that I’ve collected all this data… I went through how I did all the comparisons I came up with and finally she broke in and said – and I wrote down verbatim – ‘That’s how the world works. Women make less than men. That’s just a fact.’”
Francis was, understandably, stunned. “I was just floored that someone not only would say that but would feel so insulated from any sort of pushback or any sort of punishment,” she said. “What’s funny is, I can’t tell you how many people since reading that comment in print have reached out to me and said, ‘That was my exact experience with her.’” The commonality led her to question whether it was some sort of negotiating tactic.
Megyn wondered the same thing because, as she noted, “it does seem impossible that any lawyer would say such a reckless thing.” When Megyn’s team reached out to Fox News for comment, the network responded: “Melissa Francis’s version of that conversation is untrue and patently absurd.”
How Melissa Francis Found Out She Was Canceled
Following her conversation with Brandi, Francis said she went to human resources. In the past, she had found them to be very helpful, but not this time. “He said, ‘Well, I don’t know that we have a gender pay problem here,’” Francis recalled. She proceeded to demand an investigation into both Brandi and the pay disparity. “I am lucky enough to be in a position where I don’t support my family, so I will die on this motherf–king mountain before I will let this go because I am really mad,” she shared.
Francis retained the services of Mintzer, who said that there was a “process” that they were following when the anchor was informed that she would be off the air. Just 10 minutes before her 4pm Fox Business show was set to start, Francis said that Mintzer got a call and was told her “services were no longer needed.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Francis was broadcasting from her living room. Mintzer gave her the news, but she assumed that the show would go on as planned that day because of the timing. The remotely controlled lights and camera in her home fired up as usual, and she was talking with her producers as the countdown to Wall Street’s closing bell and the start of the show began. “I’m about to go and it comes up in the prompter, ‘You’ve been canceled,’” Francis shared. “All of a sudden, everything went dead in my living room.”
Francis has not appeared on the network since. While she and Mintzer did not comment on reports that Fox paid her $15 million to settle a resulting retaliation claim (as previously reported by the Washington Post), they did confirm that Francis testified before the New York Department of Labor as part of an investigation into Fox.
You can check out Megyn’s full show with Francis by tuning in to episode 397 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.