When Matt Lauer was fired from the Today show over allegations of sexual misconduct at the workplace, NBC executives reportedly assumed that viewers were “tuning in that day to see how Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb would cover the event.” After that, “they would return to their usual morning viewing habits, given the absence of the show’s longtime star.”
That has not been the case as ratings have remained steady, and in some cases, have risen after Lauer’s departure —to the “surprise” of some NBC officials. It shouldn’t have been that shocking, though, given the same thing happened with CBS This Morning after Charlie Rose was axed for similar accusations.
What television executives appear to be learning is that maybe, just maybe, that men — namely older White men — are not vital to the success of a news program. So much is catered to White men even when they don’t prove their worth, so it was only right that Kotb, Lauer’s immediate fill in, was permanently named co-host of Today. Many Today viewers were already familiar with Kotb as the co-host of the show’s wine-filled fourth hour she shares with Kathie Lee Gifford anyway.
There is a lesson here: women, even non-White ones, can sit in the chair previously assigned to the old prototype of what made a great “newsman” (White, older, straight) and everything will be just fine. Meanwhile, one can’t overlook how nice it is to see that a non-White woman is taking the place of predatory White men. More industries should follow this pattern. It’s not about making White men or men altogether obsolete as members of the foolish brigade might suggest; no, it’s about making things equal.
Speaking of equality, for all the cheers of Kotb officially being named as Matt Lauer’s replacement (including from Lauer himself), it has come with a caveat that has rightfully angered supporters of both Kotb and gender parity with respect to pay. An NBC insider has revealed to Page Six that Kobt will be paid $18 million less than her white male predecessor. Indeed, Kobt is said to be making $7 million a year — the same as co-host Savannah Guthrie — but far short of Lauer’s $25 million a year deal.
However, this insider claims: “Hoda isn’t complaining about the money. She has landed the big job she always dreamed of, and most definitely deserves. Plus, Matt’s salary reflected the long time he was on the show — 25 years. If things go well, Hoda could ask for more next time if she re-ups her contract. But the figures underline the huge wage disparity at NBC News.”
Of course Kotb will not complain though I imagine her agent is bidding their time while listening to Lil’ Wayne’s “Money On My Mind” on loop for the foreseeable future. In one respect, it always seemed absurd that a news anchor was making that much money with an entire team around them. It’s the kind of obscene amount that if lessened, could probably help boost the salaries of other journalists who help make these shows such profitable businesses. There work is no less invaluable, but is undoubtedly treated as such.
However, there is the world you want and the one you leave in. Gargantuan salaries for top-level TV talent isn’t going away anytime soon, which means if the news execs are going to dole out that kind of cash for men like Matt Lauer, the same should be done for Guthrie and Kotb, who have boosted the ratings in a Lauer-less Today show. NBC execs assumed viewers needed to see Lauer, but after proven not to be the case, don’t both Kotb and Guthrie deserve pay bumps?
Also consider that Megyn Kelly, who has turned the 9:00 a.m. hour of Today into a ratings failure, is said to be making $20 million a year. Why is a White man who was more successful at making the lives of women in the workplace hell earning more than Hoda Kotb? Why is a woman who has shown she’s not even come close to duplicating the success she had on FOX News and parading racial paranoia on prime time making so much more than a proven success like Hoda Kotb?
Hoda Kotb won’t make a fuss about it, but the rest of us certainly can.
Give her and Guthrie what they deserve. And as a longtime Today fan, I want women earning equal pay — and I definitely still want to see Kotb occasionally tipsy with Kathie Lee. Don’t ever take that away from me.