Could Matt Lauer be leaving the Today show?
That was the speculation spreading across the internet this week, with a new report of a potential Today show feud reviving reports about the marquee star’s departure from the show.
There have been reports of tension between Lauer and Billy Bush, who was reportedly slated to be the one scoring the big sit-down interview with Ryan Lochte after the swimmer’s controversial claims that he was robbed at gunpoint during the Rio Olympics. It was Bush who first interviewed Lochte before his story was proven to be a lie, but the follow-up went on Lauer instead.
There were reports of a growing rift between Lauer and Bush, who joined the Today team in May, though Bush said publicly that it was simply a case of Lochte picking Lauer over him.
TMZ reported on Bush’s denial of any backstage tension.
“Billy Bush says Matt Lauer did NOT bigfoot him out of the coveted first sit-down interview with Ryan Lochte… telling TMZ Sports it was Lochte who called the shots.
“There are reports that Lauer and his ‘Today’ show team have been mean-girling Bush behind the scenes… treating him like an “outcast” ever since he joined the show back in May.”
But despite the denials, there were still rumors that the tension could be leading to Matt Lauer’s departure on the Today show. Both Lauer and Bush were among the most-searched terms online on Monday, and reports of past tension were trending as fans speculated whether Lauer could finally be following up on the long-simmering rumors of his departure.
There have been rumors of Lauer’s potential departure from the Today show circulating for months, including a report from June that he would be fired by NBC and replaced by the more affordable Willie Geist.
The report claimed that Matt Lauer could have only a matter of weeks left with the Today show before the network decided to cut him loose in a move to shed his massive salary.
“Matt’s paid a lot of money, upward of $20 million a year. They don’t want to continue to give that kind of huge paycheck to one person anymore,” a source told In Touch Weekly (via Celeb Dirty Laundry).
The report added that Willie Geist had been groomed to take over for Lauer, with NBC executives seeing Geist as a rising star who could run with his chance to take a lead role.
Another report from Showbiz411 back in March claimed that Matt Lauer would be leaving the Today show when his contract is up, with his departure likely coming sometime soon after the November election.
It’s not clear how much truth there could be to the latest Today show rumors pointing to an exit for Matt Lauer. The show has been something of a lighting rod for tabloid speculation in recent years, with constant reports of backstage tension and power plays from Matt Lauer.
One of those reports came after the 2012 firing of Ann Curry, which led to a feud between Curry and Lauer. Many blamed Lauer for her departure, but other insiders told the New York Post that he had nothing to do with it.
“Ann and Matt never made up after her firing. He believes the way she handled it made him look terrible, while she believes Matt played a major role in her downfall,” an insider told the Post’s Page Six last year.
Lauer was again in the tabloid crosshairs in 2014 when Today show executive Jamie Horowitz was fired. Page Six quoted a source who claimed that Lauer orchestrated the move after learning of a plan to oust his co-anchor Savannah Guthrie and replace her with Hoda Kotb, leading Lauer to demand a change in plans from NBC News President Deborah Turness.
“Savannah, Natalie and Willie Geist heard about the plan and talked to Matt, who went to Turness and told her, ‘I want to keep these people,’ so she fired Jamie,” a source told Page Six. “Once again, Matt Lauer calls the shots at ‘Today.’ The idea of bringing Jamie in was to bring change to the show to help beat ‘GMA,’ but how can you fix it if nobody can make any changes?”
There doesn’t appear to be as much substance to the latest reports that Matt Lauer could be fired or leaving the Today show, with much of the speculation coming from fans themselves and no sources within the network speaking about it. But the continued reports of tension with Billy Bush could show that the backstage turmoil still remains at Today.
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