Hoda Kotb takes over ‘Today’

The Standard Journal - - ENTERTAINMENT - By David Bauder

NEW YORK — NBC News opened the new year by ap­point­ing Hoda Kotb as co-an­chor of the “Today” show’s first two hours with Sa­van­nah Guthrie, re­plac­ing Matt Lauer fol­low­ing his fir­ing on sex­ual mis­con­duct charges in late Novem­ber.

Kotb, 53, will con­tinue to co-host the show’s fourth hour with Kathie Lee Gif­ford.

It will be the first allfe­male team head­lin­ing “Today” in the show’s 65- year his­tory. Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts blazed that path for ABC’s “Good Morn­ing Amer­ica” in the 2000s, but morn­ing shows have tra­di­tion­ally paired a man and a woman as host. With an au­di­ence dom­i­nated by women in an era where news of badly behaving men is fre­quent, the Guthrie- Kotb pair­ing may be par­tic­u­larly timely.

“Today” won’t be an allfe­male zone in its first half, how­ever, with long­time weather fore­caster Al Roker and cor­re­spon­dent Car­son Daly as reg­u­lars. Megyn Kelly hosts the show’s third hour.

“This has to be the most pop­u­lar de­ci­sion NBC News has ever made and I am so thrilled,” Guthrie said on an­nounc­ing the ap­point­ment on the air.

“I am pinch­ing my­self,” said a beam­ing Kotb, sit­ting be­side her. “I think we should send some medics to Alexan­dria, Vir­ginia, where my mom has likely fainted.”

Lauer’s even­tual re­place­ment had long been the sub­ject of in­ter­nal angst but with a sud­den de­ci­sion forced upon the net­work, Kotb’s per­for­mance made it eas­ier. She’s subbed for Lauer since the day he was fired and “Today” has won four straight weeks in the rat­ings, af­ter hav­ing spent much of the past few years in sec­ond be­hind ABC.

“Hoda has seam­lessly stepped into the co-an­chor role along­side Sa­van­nah, and the two have quickly hit the ground run­ning,” NBC News Chair­man Andy Lack said in a memo to staff last week on Jan. 2. “They have an un­de­ni­able con­nec­tion with each other and most im­por­tantly, with view­ers, a hall­mark of ‘Today.’”

Lack said Kotb “has the rare abil­ity to share au­then­tic and heart­felt mo­ments in even the most dif­fi­cult news cir­cum­stances. It’s a trib­ute to her wide range and her in­nate curiosity.”

It’s com­mon for tele­vi­sion shows with job open­ings to hold in­for­mal try­outs of po­ten­tial hosts. With Kotb’s im­me­di­ate suc­cess, po­ten­tial re­place­ments like Wil­lie Geist or Craig Melvin didn’t get that chance.

Lauer had been a fix­ture at “Today” since the mid-1990s be­fore his abrupt fir­ing for what NBC called “in­ap­pro­pri­ate sex­ual be­hav­ior” with a col­league. Other com­plaints and re­ports of crude be­hav­ior fol­lowed.

He was t he sec­ond tele­vi­sion morn­ing host fired in a week, af­ter CBS News axed Char­lie Rose just be­fore Thanks­giv­ing on sex­ual mis­con­duct charges. Rose was one of three “CBS This Morn­ing” hosts with Gayle King and No­rah O’Don­nell, and CBS has yet to name his re­place­ment. Sub­sti­tutes have in­cluded Vladimir Duthiers, Bianna Golodryga, Dana Ja­cob­sen, John Dick­er­son and An­thony Ma­son.

Kotb joined NBC News in 1998 as a “Date­line NBC” cor­re­spon­dent, af­ter work­ing in lo­cal news in New Or­leans. Her pub­lic pro­file in­creased with her wine- soaked pair­ing with Gif­ford on the show’s in­for­mal fourth hour.

File, Charles Sykes / In­vi­sion via AP

Hoda Kotb (cen­ter) joins Sa­van­nah Guthrie (right) as co-an­chor.

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