Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb regained their composure as they co-anchored Today on Thursday without their ‘dear friend’ Matt Lauer.
The pair, who held hands, cried and hugged a day earlier after announcing Lauer’s shock dismissal from NBC over allegations of sexual misconduct, were less emotional as they kicked off the morning show by sharing his apology and diving in to more accusations against him.
‘It is a difficult morning here again because our top story is once again about our former colleague Matt Lauer,’ Kotb said.
Guthrie, who fought back tears the previous day as she announced his departure, then read aloud an apology from the 59-year-old in which he expressed ‘sorrow and regret’.
Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb were more upbeat on Thursday as they led the first hour of Today for a second day in a row after Lauer’s firing
After a brief report on the growing accusations against Lauer from correspondent X, Guthrie and Kotb welcomed NBC favorite Carson Daly on.
His appearance prompted an excited reaction from Guthrie who declared him a ‘sight for sore eyes’.
It also fueled rumors of who will replace Lauer on the show.
Fans are abuzz with speculation and hopes that Daly, who presented a brief segment about a Christmas lights and a toy drive, will take his $25million chair.
With years of NBC experience, the 44-year-old would be a natural choice for Today bosses.
He has hosted Last Call with Carson Daly since 2002 and continues to host NBC’s New Year’s Eve countdown.
Daly is however currently committed to late night finishes in his hosting duties on The Voice which makes the 4am Today wake-up call less of a reality for him.
Willie Geist, the anchor of Sunday Today and co-host of Morning Joe, is another realistic prospect.
He has been a routine fixture on Today weekday shows for years and holds a natural rapport with co-hosts Guthrie and Kotb.
Moving on: Talk has turned to who will replace Lauer and the appearance of Carson Daly on Thursday morning’s show put him at the top of the list of favorites. Guthrie fueled the excitement by welcoming him on to the set and calling him a ‘sight for sore eyes’
Obvious choice: Daly, 44, is an NBC favorite with a long history at the network. The prospect of him joining Today is hampered only by his current commitments to The Voice which require him to film live shows late at night
When news of Lauer’s firing broke on Wednesday, he commended his accuser for taking on ‘the most powerful person at NBC News’.
Some fans have called for Kotb to be made a permanent fixture on the first hour of the show.
She stepped in seamlessly when Lauer was fired on Wednesday, accompanying Guthrie through coverage of his departure and maintained reporting of it throughout her regular 7am-9am spot.
Kotb, 53, has years of experience with NBC. Whether NBC will instate a permanent, all-female Today anchoring team is yet to be seen.
Another option for Lauer’s replacement is MSNBC News correspondent Craig Melvin.
Melvin, 38, co-hosts Today weekend shows and is well-liked among the week-day crew.
Already there: Hoda Kotb has been filling in for Lauer since he was fired and fans approve of the move. Some have called for her to become a permanent fixture on the 6am slot with Guthrie. Kotb is pictured on Wednesday after breaking the news of Lauer’s dismissal on the air
Current fixture: Willie Geist, a long time Today fixture, is another possible replacement. He currently co-anchors Morning Joe and is the anchor of Sunday Today
Popular personality: Craig Melvin, co-anchor of Weekend Today and a popular MSNBC News correspondent (above with Guthrie and Kotb on Today in October) is another possible replacement
Other names thrown out by excitable fans and industry commentators included Today alumni Katie Couric and Ann Curry.
Curry was sensationally fired by the network in 2012 after a long-running reported tension with Lauer. With him gone, fans are calling for her to be reinstated.
Tamron Hall and Sheinelle Jones are two other possibilities.
Hall quit Today after learning earlier this year that Megyn Kelly would be replacing her in her 9am slot.
She filled in for Guthrie when she was on maternity leave and, before her departure from the popular morning show, was tipped for long success as part of its co-anchoring team.
Foreign blood: English journalist Keir Simmons is an NBC News correspondent who has appeared on Today in the past
All female prospects: If Today opts for an all-female anchoring team, Sheinelle Jones (left) and Tamron Hall (right) are two possibilities. Jones is a news anchor for NBC and MSNBC but is lesser known in the morning show circuit. Hall is more seasoned in the morning slot and was the face of the 9am Today hour for a short time before Megyn Kelly joined the network
Kelly’s arrival and her new, Megyn Kelly Today show, however took the place of her most prominent hosting gig on the network.
Since Lauer’s firing was announced, Kelly has been at the center of talk about his replacement.
The 47-year-old spoke intrepidly of his departure on her own show, describing it as a ‘sign of progress’ as she lay her thoughts squarely with his alleged victims instead of gushing over him as Guthrie, Kotb and Kathy Lee Gifford had all done hours earlier.
Later, Kelly admitted to hearing ‘rumors’ about his alleged misconduct but said she hoped they weren’t true.
Veteran: Katie Couric is another prospect. The esteemed journalist and Today alumni is now without a TV home after leaving Yahoo as its Global Anchor. She co-hosted Today with Lauer and has in the past joked about how he ‘pinched’ her backside when they worked together
Revenge return? Ann Curry, who was fired by Today in 2012 as Lauer rose to become its most powerful news personality, is another show alumni who fans would like to see return
She however volunteered herself as a champion and confidante for any other women at NBC who have been sexually harassed.
Kelly made shockwaves in the industry earlier this year when she left Fox News after rising through its ranks at astronomic pace to join the NBC team.
She has since evolved her hard-hitting, ‘elbows-out’ (as she described it on Wednesday) demeanor to a more relatable and, as she hopes, ‘uplifting’, tone.
With Lauer and his $25million annual salary now gone, mother-of-three Kelly is NBC’s highest paid star with her yearly take-home of $18million.
Lauer was rumored to have been displeased about her joining NBC earlier this year.
Ambitious newcomer: Megyn Kelly, who joined NBC from Fox earlier this year, is another name being widely thrown around in talk of Lauer’s replacements. She dove right in to the topic of his firing on her own show on Wednesday and described it as a ‘sign of progress’. With Lauer gone, she is now NBC’s highest paid star
On Wednesday, she described him only as ‘kind and supportive’ during her transition to the network but spared him the same glowing tributes as other NBC staff.
It is possible NBC may not replace Lauer, the longest serving Today anchor who had been at its helm since 1997 before he was fired, for some time yet.
With the 2018 Winter Olympics fast approaching, the network is likely to draft in a host of VIP guest hosts to contribute to coverage.
MATT LAUER’S APOLOGY
There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions.
To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry. As I am writing this I realize the depth of the damage and disappointment I have left behind at home and at NBC.
Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed.
I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly.
Repairing the damage will take a lot of time and soul searching and I’m committed to beginning that effort. It is now my full time job.
The last two days have forced me to take a very hard look at my own troubling flaws. It’s been humbling. I am blessed to be surrounded by the people I love. I thank them for their patience and grace.
A spokesman for Today did not comment on any talk of replacing Lauer when contacted on Thursday.
In his apology, the father-of-three said that while some of the claims against him were ‘untrue and mischaracterized’, there was ‘enough truth’ to the allegations for him to feel ashamed.
Three separate women have now complained directly to NBC about Lauer’s behavior when they worked together. At least one alleges sexual assault.
Since none of the women are named, it is not known if they are the same accusers who spoke to The New York Times and Variety about his alleged misconduct.
In Variety’s piece, which was published on Wednesday after his departure, women described how Lauer exposed himself to them in his office and locked the door of it using a button under his desk.
One claimed to have been given a sex toy by the journalist along with a note about how he wanted to use it on her.
Others described being asked to go to his hotel room late at night as they worked together on various Olympics Games around the world.
Lauer, who is married, said in his statement that their accusations have prompted him to examine his ‘troubling flaws’.
‘Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized. But there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed.
‘I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly,’ he said.