Hoda Kotb has heard from a lot of her friends since announcing that she’s officially filling the spot as Today’s new co-anchor, including from her ousted predecessor, Matt Lauer.
“I did hear from [Matt], yeah,” Kotb told Entertainment Tonight on Tuesday. “He texted me and he said congratulations and some really nice words, and it meant the world when I saw the text pop up. My heart just went like, you know, it meant the world to see that.”
The 53-year-old veteran journalist and mother of one has been filling in for Lauer alongside Savannah Guthrie on the popular morning show since he was fired for alleged inappropriate sexual behavior in November.
Kotb went on to explain that she’s still in touch with Lauer, though she admitted his controversy has affected their friendship.
“You know, Matt is our good friend and continues to be, and I think for both of us, we’ve just been trying to navigate this time and honor our love and friendship with Matt, but also understand and try to learn more about these circumstances,” she said. “So, it’s complicated when you are surprised by revelations, but you still care deeply for somebody who’s a friend. I think for all of us, we’ve just been trying to navigate through that, with straightforwardness and honesty and integrity.”
In an exclusive interview for this week’s issue of PEOPLE (on stands Friday), Kotb and Guthrie, 46, revealed how they leaned on one another in the wake of Lauer’s dismissal, which they broke on air.
“That morning was so hard, but Hoda and I were in it together,” Guthrie said. “We are family, and families do go through hard times, and when that happens in good families, you just get closer.”
“We were just trying to make it through those days together,” Kotb said. “Sometimes when you go through something with someone, you see something special. I think that’s what happened.”
Guthrie, for one, didn’t want that “something special” to end. “It was such a shock to wake up one day and not have Matt, but it was the most natural and comforting thing in the world to have Hoda right there,” she said. “No one wanted that to stop.”
NBC executive took notice, too, and just before the holidays, offered Kotb the job full-time. “We’re very fortunate to have someone like Hoda who brings immense talent and tremendous positive energy, and then on top of that happens to have wonderful chemistry with Savannah,” said NBC News Group chairman Andy Lack. “It makes this a decision that everyone can embrace and feel terrific about.”
In addition to her co-anchor duties, Kotb will continue hosting the show’s 10 o’clock hour alongside Kathie Lee Gifford.
Gifford couldn’t be happier for her friend and predicted well-before his congratulatory text that Lauer would feel the same.
“The whole thing with Matt is not something we want to get into. We love this man and we are heartbroken about him being gone. Our sense of joy is tempered by our sense of loss,” Gifford said of Kotb’s success after Lauer’s downfall. “The best way to say it is that it’s a bit bittersweet. Nobody wants to profit off of someone’s pain. But this is reality. It’s a business, and someone has to move on. Matt would be the first to congratulate her and wish her well.”
Today airs weekdays (beginning at 7 a.m. ET) on NBC.