Natalie Morales and Willie Geist will still have a place on the Today show, and they may have Matt Lauer to thank.
This week reports emerged that the both on-air talents had been fired, part of a bombshell move that also included Savannah Guthrie’s departure and the firing of top show executive Jamie Horowitz.
Reports indicated that Hoda Kotb would be replacing Guthrie and that Tamron Hall or Josh Elliot would be filling in for Natalie Morales. But that’s when Matt Lauer reportedly stepped in, voicing his displeasure and getting NBC to nix the move.
Sources told the New York Post that Lauer complained to NBC president Deborah Turness, who in turn fired Horowitz in order to prevent a “full-on Today anchor revolt.”
The report went on:
Former ESPN exec Horowitz was hired by Turness and NBC Universal News Group Chairman Pat Fili-Krushel, who made an enormous effort to get him from ABC and tasked him with the job of making changes to turn around their ratings slide against their rival “GMA.”
Turness was fully aware of Horowitz’s plan to shake up the anchor roster on the show, sources said, but, “Once the talent complained, she sided with them,” and Horowitz was fired after 10 weeks on the job. Insiders said his direct approach had offended some show staffers, who feared for their jobs.
Turness tried to get ahead of the rumors on Wednesday, issuing a statement that both Willie Geist and Natalie Morales were safe in their jobs.
“NBC’s TODAY has the best anchor team in morning television,” she said in a statement. “The entire TODAY show anchor team — Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker, Natalie Morales, Willie Geist, Carson Daly, Tamron Hall, Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb — are incredibly talented, valued and have our support. In response to the false rumors that have been circulated about our anchor team, NBC wants to be absolutely clear: The rumors are wrong — period. This is the team we are committed to. And this is the team that our viewers turn to in the morning.”
But the statement doesn’t mean that Natalie Morales will remain with the Today show forever. Reports indicated that she was trying to find another position in television to escape the power struggle between Turness and co-host Tamron Hall.
[Image via NBC]