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Hoda Kotb: ‘I’m Not Making Matt Lauer Money’

Topics: Current Events

Earlier this week, NBC announced that Hoda Kotb will permanently replace Matt Lauer as co-anchor of the Today show alongside Savannah Guthrie. Kotb has been filling in since Lauer was fired for alleged “inappropriate sexual behavior” in November.

Hoda Kotb
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The appointment makes history: Kotb and Guthrie are the first female co-anchors of the Today show, and only the second female pair to host a morning show, after Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts co-anchored ABC News from 2006-2009.

But that doesn’t mean that Kotb is pulling down the same salary as Matt Lauer. In fact, she and Guthrie combined make a little more than half what Lauer was making: $7 million apiece, compared to his reported $25 million a year.

“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,” Kotb tells People magazine. “Like, I didn’t want that to be the happy day. I wanted to feel good throughout. So no, I’m not making Matt Lauer money. Not even close.”

Should Hoda Kotb Be Making ‘Matt Lauer Money’?

That’s a pretty gracious approach, but while it’s true that money isn’t everything, it is a concrete measure of an organization’s appreciation for an employee. (Not the only measure of appreciation, mind you, but an important one, especially for the majority of workers who don’t make millions per year.)

The question is, should Kotb be paid less than Lauer? Both are veteran journalists with decades of experience in TV. Lauer began his career in 1979, quitting Ohio University to pursue a journalism internship in WOWK-TV in West Virginia. He worked his way up, hosting various shows until he landed at NBC in 1992, becoming new anchor of the Today show in 1994, and co-host in 1997. He’s won several Daytime Emmys.

Kotb started her career as a news assistant at CBS in 1986, after earning her BA in broadcast journalism from Virginia Tech University. She became a correspondent for Dateline NBC in 1998, winning a Peabody Award with her team in 2007, the same year she started co-hosting the 10 a.m. slot of the Today show with Kathie Lee Gifford. She’s won numerous other awards, including the Edward R. Murrow Award and an Emmy.

In short, if we’re comparing CVs, Kotb seems at least as valuable an employee as pre-scandal Matt Lauer — and that was before she helped the Today show beat Good Morning America in the ratings.

So why is she making less than the man she replaced? Some say it’s just business — for male and female anchors.

“While the optics of the financial arrangement have spurred a very worthwhile and necessary discussion about compensation parity among men and women in the media business, the simple fact is that Kotb is being treated much like almost any other anchor or host who takes over a coveted and long-held post on a venerable TV program,” writes Brian Steinberg at Variety. “TV networks often see opportunity in such transitions, because it typically means a cutback in salary outlay.”

Bad Optics or Persistent Bias?

Fair enough, although those bad optics are mighty bad. Plus, whatever the state of the industry currently, the entertainment business has a long history of paying women less than men for similar jobs.

Just recently, E! News anchor Catt Sadler quit her job after learning that her male co-host made twice as much money. Significantly, Sadler tried to negotiate — but, she says, the network “didn’t come close — nowhere close, not even remotely close” to pay parity.

That highlights an obstacle that all women face when negotiating salary: namely, that they’re likely to be offered less than men, and then regarded as aggressive and uncooperative if they ask for more. The result: a persistent gender pay gap.

So, it’s possible that Hoda Kotb really is happy with her salary, and that it’s based on market forces, not bias. But it’s also possible that she knows the environment she’s negotiating in, and has decided not to rock the boat.

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Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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