The future of Today is very uncertain at the moment. NBC's morning show is in a state of flux following the departure of general manager Jamie Horowitz earlier this week. Prior to Horowitz's removal, co-hosts Willie Geist and Natalie Morales "were recently told they were fired," an NBC source shares in the new issue of Us Weekly. Now that Horowitz is gone, though, the network may be having a change of heart.
"He was behind all the changes," a second insider tells Us of the exec, who started on the job just two months ago, in September. "Now everybody is wondering what is going to end up happening."
In the immediate future, at least, both Geist and Morales will continue to appear on air. Even if the network decides not to reverse Horowitz's actions, exit strategies take time; for example, after Us Weekly reported in March 2013 that Elisabeth Hasselbeck was leaving ABC's The View, a rep for the show responded saying she had a "long-term" contract. The network continued to insist there were "no plans" for her to go, in fact, right up until the day she left on July 10, when she announced she was starting a new job at Fox News.
Morales is in talks with ABC, the second source tells Us, but NBC may try to keep her around. (ABC had no comment.) The network "is worried firing her could have negative repercussions," the insider adds, noting that producers are "hypersensitive" because of what happened the last time the lineup changed. "They are fearful of another Ann Curry situation." (Curry's tearful departure in 2012 was the subject of much scrutiny after Brian Stelter wrote about it in his book Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV.)
Complicating matters, the source says, is the fact that Morales, 42, is "popular" with viewers. "Sometimes on-air talent is popular but not a great fit for morning TV, and that's the case with Natalie," the insider tells Us.
In part because of that, "producers are split on whether to let Natalie go," the source says. "They are debating whether to try and stop her from leaving."
Geist may be sticking around, too. Prior to Horowitz's firing, he had lined up a gig at CBS; with Horowitz now gone, it seems he no longer needs that job. (A rep for CBS says, "Willie Geist is not coming to CBS News.")
Geist even took to Twitter on Wednesday, Nov. 19, to reassure fans. "Still happily at @TODAYShow with my pal @NMoralesNBC & Co.," he wrote, adding a few minutes later, "Your concern & kind tweets were overwhelming. Thank you."
In the wake of Horowitz's departure, NBC is denying the firings and putting up a united front behind the current hosts. "This was wrong when it was reported this morning and it's wrong now. Natalie and Willie were never fired, never told they were fired, and they were not looking for other jobs," an NBC rep said in a statement to Us. "We want them on the TODAY team for a long time to come. End of story."
The network also praised the team earlier on Nov. 19. "NBC's Today has the best anchor team in morning television. The entire Today show anchor team — Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker, Natalie Morales, Willie Geist, Carson Daly, Tamron Hall, Kathie Lee Gifford, and Hoda Kotb — are incredibly talented, valued, and have our support," NBC News president Deborah Turness said in a statement to Us. "In response to the false rumors that have been circulated about our anchor team, NBC wants to be absolutely clear: The rumors are wrong — period," the statement continued. "This is the team we are committed to. And this is the team that our viewers turn to in the morning."