After Matt Lauer was terminated in November, his friend and executive producer Don Nash was swiftly removed from his position running the NBC show’s first two hours. Veteran senior producer Libby Leist was awarded the job, leading many to believe Guthrie was behind the switch.
“Libby is Savannah’s best friend, and Savannah pushed Don out to put Libby there,” the insider said. “It is a power grab by Savannah to make sure she gets the best assignments and has someone at the top looking out for her.”
The source added that “this isn’t an issue with [Lauer’s replacement Hoda Kotb — who is just happy to be there — but it is an issue with some of the staff, who had hoped, with the ousting of Lauer, that the era of anchors with outsized power calling the shots was over.”
Another source said that the replacement was puzzling as they assumed the job would go to co-executive producer Tom Mazzarelli.
“Libby and Savannah are very close,” the second insider admitted. “They’re workout buddies and old DC allies.”
Leist’s move marks the first time a woman has been in charge of the NBC morning show’s first two hours, with two women sitting in the anchor chairs. Previously, Leist was with the 7 a.m. hour of TODAY Show for five years.
Despite the seemingly ironic move, another source told Page Six that “it is not unusual at all for there to be an EP change following an anchor change.” The insider revealed that after Lester Holt was named anchor of Nightly News, the show swapped executive producers, as did Meet the Press with the addition of Chuck Todd.
Other TODAY Show sources backed the network’s decision, sharing that Leist is a welcomed addition in the role.
“Libby is an incredibly accomplished and talented producer. For anyone to suggest that NBC would entrust her with the reins of its morning show that brings in over half a billion dollars a year because she’s ‘bestie’ with the anchor makes zero sense and smacks of sexism,” an insider defended the show.
Leist has “served in many senior producing roles in DC, including… Andrea Mitchell’s State Department producer, for which she traveled the world,” an insider said.
As Leist works behind the scenes on the first two hours of NBC’s morning broadcast, hosts Guthrie and Kotb are beginning to bond as co-anchors and friends, sources claimed.
“They never hung out before. They just now started posting pics together,” the insider said.
NBC announced on Jan. 2 that Kotb would serve permanently as Lauer’s replacement. She began filling in for the 20-year veteran in late November, beginning on the day his termination for “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace” was announced.