image: screencap Savannah Guthrie Hoda Kotb The Today Show

At the Intersection of Sexism and Racism: Today Hires Hoda Kotb to Replace Matt Lauer but Pays Her Less.

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You’d think that this current moment of female empowerment might have taught the Powers That Be at NBC a thing or two about how sexism is a system of interrelated things that all bolster each other to perpetuate a racist, patriarchal…oh hell, if the whole Matt Lauer thing hasn’t taught them this, my opening paragraph in a Mary Sue post isn’t gonna. Sheesh.

Back when the news broke that Matt Lauer had been fired from Today after a long history of alleged sexual harassment (complete with a creepy desk button so he could lock the door behind women like a goddamn supervillain), I marveled at the vision of Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb sitting side by side at the Today desk. I wondered if now would be the time to subvert the formula of “male host/female host” that every morning show has (as do most news shows in general) and *gasp* have two female hosts!

Well, it looks as though NBC had the same thought. Hoda Kotb, who’s been filling in for Lauer since his firing, has officially been hired as his replacement. According to The Hollywood Reporter, she will be taking over his spot during the first two hours of the show alongside Guthrie, and will continue to host the 10AM hour with Kathie Lee Gifford.

Guthrie called Kotb’s hiring “the most popular decision NBC News has ever made.” Former CBS News president Andrew Heyward adds that, “The conventional wisdom historically is that there had to be some testosterone in the sandwich. [T]here doesn’t appear to be a huge urgency to finding a permanent male.”

So many women! This is great, right?

Well, yes. But… (and there’s always a but)

NBC hasn’t officially commented on it yet, but there are reports that Kotb will make much less than Lauer did on the show…as did all the other women on Today. Lauer made $25 million a year hosting the show. Kotb is expected to earn around $7 million, which is the same salary that Guthrie makes.

Now, I know it’s hard to keep things in perspective when we’re talking about millions of dollars that most of us don’t have, but think about it like this. Kotb will be making less than half of what Lauer made.  She will be making less than half of what a serial harasser and abuser made.

But, I can hear some of you say, he was with the show forever. He only got that salary after years of service to the show. Well, part of the problem is that, while keeping him employed, women came and went (likely, in large part because of him). Part of what makes this so unbelieveably sexist is that men’s jobs are treated like gold, whereas female employment is treated as disposable. So, it’s harder for women to build up the track record at any one company to be able to negotiate higher and higher salaries.

The gendered wage gap being sexist has to do with more than just dollar amounts. It has to do with career longevity, and how women in the workplace are treated more generally.

Well, at least she and Guthrie are making the same salary, right?

And their co-host, Megyn Kelly, is making $20 million.

Independent news analyst and THR contributor Andrew Tyndall says that Kotb’s new salary is “a symptom of the correct economic decision to downsize the role and not throw millions and millions of dollars at it. [T]he big, splashy outside talent raid is maybe yesterday’s news.”

What’s unfortunate is that they had this economic come-to-Jesus moment just after luring the white, blonde Kelly with a hefty, nearly-equal-to-her-male-counterpart salary, and decided to reward Kotb for her commitment to the show by paying her less than half of what a serial harasser and abuser made.

I can’t say that enough. She’s making less than half of what a serial harasser and abuser made.

And so is Savannah Guthrie, for the record. Obviously, not all of Kotb’s white counterparts are making more than she is, but it’s telling that when attracting Megyn Kelly, NBC was willing to throw a bunch of money at her.

Yet, in the aftermath of a huge scandal, during a moment of increased emphasis on female empowerment, when placing a woman of color in the same job held by an allegedly abusive white man, that they’re paying her less than half of what a serial harasser and abuser made, and less than half of what the new blonde lady is making.

Do they not know or care how terrible this looks?

The answer to the problem of the “big, splashy outside talent raid” is not short-changing the talent you hire from within while continuing to overpay the new hire. The solution is to lift up the talent from within to the level of the new hire, and then stop making splashy new hires.

The solution is to stop overpaying men so that anything even highly-paid women make looks like a joke by comparison.

Now, of course, Kotb is being nothing but gracious about this, and says that Lauer texted to wish her well, and she has no ill-will about her salary. But what’s she supposed to say? I hate that I’m making millions? I hate that I’m rounding out the first all-female anchor team in Today history?

Yet there’s so much more to this than that. So, I’ll say what she can’t: this is bullshit. Paying women less now so that you can “save money” by getting rid of the dude is not cute. Paying the only woman of color on the show, who also happens to have seniority, less than the new blonde chick is even less so.

(image: screencap)

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Image of Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.