Along with presumably many women across the country, we were taken aback to hear this particular Hoda Kotb-related news. During a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the Today lead coanchor revealed that she’s still on speaking terms with Matt Lauer.
Considering what we know about Kotb from other interviews and the way she’s presented herself to the world — i.e., as an ambitious, progressive cancer survivor and mother and arguably as a role model for women who watch Today — this information seems rather out of character. Given that Lauer was fired from the show for allegedly sexually harassing women in the workplace, cutting off contact with him would be understandable, even if the two were friends when they were coworkers.
And yet, Kotb says, she can’t simply walk away from the working relationship and friendship she built with Lauer over the years. “I mean look, this is one of those complex situations,” she candidly tells the magazine. “I’ve known him since I started working at NBC. When I was sick with breast cancer, he was the first to call. He helps and helped in ways that …you know, he was incredible in that way.”
Kotb began working at NBC in 1998, and is clearly saying that erasing 20 years of history with someone is next to impossible regardless of the circumstances, but went on to acknowledge that the allegations against Lauer complicate things exponentially. “There is that Matt and then there’s the Matt that the accusers speak of,” she explained. “And those accusers’ voices matter and that story matters and it’s… It’s still tough, right?”
Kotb didn’t elaborate on how often she and Lauer speak or what they discuss, but it’s hard not to raise an eyebrow at their continued communication in the wake of such a disturbing controversy. Of course, there’s undoubtedly something to be said about the difficulty of letting go of an entire history with someone you’ve known for 20 years. And Kotb herself seems to acknowledge that she’s conflicted about the situation, as has Savannah Guthrie in the past.
However, Kotb may underestimate the major issues that arise from her openly maintaining contact with Lauer — and the message this could send to Today viewers and women in general. Sometimes, the consequences of harassing women aren’t just losing your job and fan base — they’re losing the respect and friendship of some of the people you care about. Hopefully, Kotb recognizes why this choice could be problematic, and we hope she reflects on how continuing contact with Lauer could have negative fallout — not only for her career, but also for our culture and the progress women are fighting so hard to make.