ALL-OUT WAR AT TO­DAY

Billy Bush is wreak­ing havoc at To­day — and gun­ning for Matt Lauer’s job

In Touch (USA) - - Feud News -

He didn’t even bother try­ing to make a good first im­pres­sion. Af­ter be­ing pro­moted from his LA gig on Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood to To­day in NYC, Billy Bush ac­cepted an in­vi­ta­tion to join long­time To­day host Matt Lauer for lunch at Man­hat­tan’s famed Four Sea­sons restau­rant. “Billy ini­tially agreed to join him while he was on a trip to New York City,” ex­plains a To­day in­sider. “But at the last minute, Billy can­celed on Matt, cit­ing other work com­mit­ments. He never men­tioned reschedul­ing. Matt thought that was very re­veal­ing.”

The power strug­gle be­tween them has only got­ten worse. “Billy has made it known that he’s gun­ning for Matt’s job,” says the in­sider. “There’s ob­vi­ous ten­sion be­tween them now.” And that goes for the rest of the To­day fam­ily, too. Even though Billy, 44, has been on board for the third hour of To­day for just a short time, his tran­si­tion has been marred by charges of en­ti­tle­ment, ar­gu­ments and ruf­fled feath­ers. “In­stead of cheers, the cast and crew of the show have marked his ar­rivals with jeers,” says the in­sider.

Matt thinks Billy’s ar­ro­gance is out of con­trol. “Billy feels he’s the ex­pert on ev­ery­thing and has been de­mand­ing the most cam­era time. It’s ab­so­lutely ob­nox­ious,” the in­sider ex­plains of Billy, whose ego and tantrums were re­port­edly a big rea­son Nancy O’dell left Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood in 2009 af­ter 13 years as co-host. At To­day, Billy threw his first big fit when Matt was given NBC’S fol­low-up in­ter­view with dis­graced Olympian Ryan Lochte af­ter it was re­vealed that the story the swim­mer had ini­tially told Billy about be­ing mugged in Rio was a lie. But Matt got the exclusive sit-down be­cause “Billy’s first in­ter­view was a to­tal dis­as­ter,” adds the in­sider. “He didn’t ask Ryan any hard-hit­ting ques­tions when he had the chance.”

Even To­day vet­eran Al Roker

is frus­trated. On Aug. 19, Al, 62, got into an on-cam­era ar­gu­ment with Billy (who at one point told Al to “calm down”) over his con­tin­ued de­fense of Ryan even af­ter the swim­mer’s story be­gan to un­ravel. “Al’s the most easy­go­ing mem­ber of the en­tire team and hates con­fronta­tion, but he feels it’s his duty to keep Billy in line and to just not let him steam­roll over ev­ery­one,” says the in­sider. “He isn’t a fan.”

Nei­ther is the rest of the cast. “There is a lot of re­sent­ment be­cause Billy is only do­ing one hour of work, as op­posed to Al, Matt and Sa­van­nah Guthrie,” says the in­sider. “And he also got a sig­nif­i­cant pay raise — from $3 mil­lion to $5 mil­lion. He had threat­ened to go to an­other net- work if he didn’t get it.” Even Billy’s own cousin, To­day con­trib­u­tor Jenna Bush Hager, is dis­tanc­ing her­self from him (see side­bar).

But the big bosses do like Billy. On Aug. 22, Wil­lie Geist, 41, an­nounced he would stop co-host­ing the third hour of the show to fo­cus on his other NBC gigs, and Billy would be tak­ing his spot. “Wil­lie was forced out,” says the in­sider. “Matt made a solid pitch to his bosses to save him, but it fell on deaf ears. Matt no longer has a lot of in­flu­ence.”

And Billy’s ready to take over. “In­stead of step­ping back and fig­ur­ing out where he fits in at To­day, he al­ready acts as if it’s his show,” says the in­sider. “Ev­ery­one wants him gone.” ◼

NEW KID ON THE BLOCK “Billy has a rep­u­ta­tion for not be­ing a team player,” says an in­sider. “Matt is not a happy camper.” TEN­SION ON THE SET “The cast and crew are very close, and Billy is al­ready ruf­fling feath­ers with all of them,” says an in­sider.

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