As part of the reckoning on sexual harassment and assault that began in the latter half of 2017, the Today Show’s lead co-anchor Matt Lauer was removed from his position in November, after more than 20 years in the role. Once Lauer made his exit—one that clearly shook his former co-anchor Savannah Guthrie, who read his statement regarding leaving Today live on television on November 29—and after about a month of the totally badass Hoda Kotb filling in for Lauer alongside Guthrie, it was announced on January 2 that she will permanently fill the spot.
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) January 2, 2018
Let us take a brief pause to say, “HECK YAS!” May this further the trend of women replacing gross dudes in their positions of power (also see Robin Wright, and Christiane Amanpour). However, this announcement, which marks the first time that Today’s lead co-hosts are both women, isn’t all rainbows and butterflies.
According to the New York Post, Kotb—who also hosts Today’s 10:00 hour alongside Kathie Lee Gifford—entered into a $7 million contract with Today as part of her promotion (reportedly the same amount that Guthrie earns). While, at first glance, that number seems HUGE, it’s peanuts compared to the $25 million Lauer was banking before his disgusting behaviour came to light. And while Lauer’s two decades’ worth of seniority on Today obviously had something to do with his huge salary, it’s worth noting that Kotb is also a long-time journalist who has been working for NBC since 1998, when she joined Dateline as a correspondent. She joined Today’s 10:00 slot in 2008, a gig she’ll keep alongside her new role.
“You and me are together forever. You’re stuck with me!” @HodaKotb tells @KathieLGifford how grateful she is to be named co-anchor of TODAY and how happy she is to have KLG by her side in life. And, Hoda’s mom and sister called in to share their joy for Hoda Woman! pic.twitter.com/meiUJxLwMH
— Kathie Lee and Hoda (@klgandhoda) January 2, 2018
Oh, and not to mention the fact that Today trumped main rival Good Morning America in ratings for four consecutive weeks during Kotb’s temporary tenure, something the New York Times reports Today hadn’t done for more than five years.
Kotb, for her part, says she doesn’t care about the cash discrepancy. “I think the whole money thing for me, I’ve always been sort of—I know it sounds ridiculous that I’m going to say this, but I really have done jobs I liked for the job I liked because I never wanted to be happy every other Friday on pay day. Like, I didn’t want that to be the happy day. I wanted to feel good throughout,” Kotb told People. “So no, I’m not making Matt Lauer money. Not even close.”
That said, she’s also not making Megyn Kelly money. The new-ish Today anchor, whose 9:00 slot has had a rocky start, earns a reported $15 to $20 million for her work—and she only hosts one hour of the show, compared to the three hours a day Kotb will now be putting in.
In case you’re not familiar with Kotb, she has an seriously inspiring past. She’s been a journalist since 1986, when she started as a news assistant in Cairo. In 2006, she won a v. prestigious Peabody Award for a Dateline report, The Education of Ms. Groves. In her early 40s, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent surgery which removed her cancer but ultimately left her unable to conceive. Flash-forward to 2017, and Kotb—at the age of 52—adopted a newborn baby girl named Haley Joy.
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) January 2, 2018
Kotb might be OK with what she’s making, but other women are not. An online petition, which has now garnered more than 5,600 supporters, was started to pressure NBC to pay both Kotb and Guthrie the same amount as Lauer.
“Obviously, $7 million is a huge sum, but NBC showed they value the Today anchor role at $25 million by paying Lauer that much. Why should his replacements receive any less compensation, if that’s what the role is truly worth?” says the petition’s author Rebecca Gerber, the senior director of engagement at Care2, the advocacy website where the petition is hosted. “This is a too-obvious example of pay discrimination—paying women less for the exact same role.”
Here’s hoping the next milestone for Today is paying its female lead anchors just as much as its former male lead.
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