They had a lot to catch up on. Wednesday, the co-hosts reunited after their children’s respective spring breaks to accept the Peabody institutional award on behalf of the NBC television program.
“Today” is the first daytime show to receive the prestigious award for its impact on the media sphere.
“We’re so honored and feel lucky to be the momentary caretakers of this incredible institution and get to be here at the moment to accept that honor,” Guthrie, 51, tells USA TODAY. “This honor belongs to the people that started 70-plus years ago who had this wild idea that people would want to watch television in the morning.”
The institution in the case of “TODAY” is the robust team in front of and behind the camera or as they would call each other: “family.” “Family is a great word because it covers the terrain of emotions and relationships and circumstances … Knowing that we have each other’s back. Makes it all not only possible but a joy,” Guthrie says.
Hoda Kotb returns to ‘Today,’ says daughter Hope was hospitalized: ‘She is back home’
Touching on their support for one another, Kotb, 58, says, “When things are going well, everybody’s happy. And when there’s a crisis with anybody, as Savannah and I know with Al (Roker) or with any of us, that’s when you know who’s there for you for real.”
Kotb choked back tears as she recalled the way Guthrie showed up for her emotionally and physically when her daughter Hope was hospitalized. “(Savannah) walked through the door and my sister said to me, ‘Aren’t you lucky?’ And I was,” she says. “In that time, I wasn’t thinking about the show, I wasn’t thinking anything but (Savannah) came through with a bunch of flowers, like, ‘I’m here. We got this.'”
“My sister underscoring it hit me, too,” she says. “It’s not ‘Call me if you need me,’ it’s showing up.”
Kotb was absent from “Today” from Feb. 17 to March 6 after her youngest daughter, 3-year-old Hope, was in the ICU “for a few days and in the hospital for a little more than a week,” she shared on the show upon return.
Hope is “improving,” Kotb says. “I’m a big believer in healing and I feel like I’m watching it in motion. The process will be long, but it’s beautiful to witness what’s happening.”
Savannah Guthrie leaves ‘Today’ mid-show after testing positive for COVID-19
At the time of Kotb’s absence, tabloid rumors of a feud resurged. Rumors of their alleged tension first emerged last summer.
The co-hosts pause, look at each other and chuckle before addressing the reported rift. “We have no idea (where it comes from),” Guthrie says. “You can’t watch the show and think it for one second because it’s just not true.”
Kotb adds, “I think it’s hilarious. … My sister sometimes sends (articles) to me, with a laughing emoji.”
The “Today” co-hosts continue to weather the storm of rumors, illness, births, deaths and more in their personal lives, but also on the air.
Kelly Ripa recently spoke to Variety about some of the challenges, as a result of sexism, she faced in daytime television. The list included being kept in the dark about co-hosts’ exits, a lack of benefits — including maternity leave and vacation time — and problems with pay.
Ripa, 52, only received what she thought of as fair compensation when she had the ability to walk away. “I don’t think they wanted to pay me,” Ripa said. “I think they had to pay me. I was trying to walk out the door and close it behind me. And I think they really figured out rapidly that they had screwed up in a major way, and it was not a good look. I think that was really the impetus behind paying me fairly. They had no choice.”
When asked if Kotb or Guthrie have faced similar pushback as women in daytime television, Kotb says she’s had a competitive spirit since her days playing basketball in high school. “I don’t think I’ve ever viewed myself through that lens… If the door is not open (and) you banged on 10 times, go to another door,” she says.
Kotb adds that she’s learned to pivot with each rejection “as opposed to saying, ‘Well, there the world goes plotting against us because we’re women.’ … I’m sure along that we have probably (faced sexism), but I haven’t spent much time thinking about it.”
“We also know that we’re the lucky ones and we stand on the shoulders of many women who fought those battles for us,” Guthrie says, naming Barbara Walters as the “primary example.” The co-host refers to the previous female co-anchors of “Today” as their “foremothers.”