MATT LAUER’s long-suffering wife Annette Roque threatened the “Today” star with divorce if he pressed NBC honchos to name news anchor NATALIE MORALES as his co-host, say sources.
The behind-the-scenes drama played out as network executives reportedly scrambled to replace Ann Curry as Matt’s co-host on NBC’s morning show after its lead over ABC rival “Good Morning America” slipped dramatically.
“When she heard about Ann getting the boot, the first thing Annette told Matt was that she didn’t want him cozying up any closer to Natalie,” revealed a source.
“In fact, Annette drew a line in the sand and said if he pushed show bosses to make Natalie his new co-host, she’d divorce him! Annette knows Matt is the key to the ‘Today’ franchise and his bosses will put whoever he wants in the co-host chair.”
Lauer, 53, recently signed a whopping $25 million deal to stay with “Today.” But as The ENQUIRER recently reported, his 13-year marriage to Annette was rocked by unbelievable rumors that he’d fathered a child with Natalie, a 40-year-old married mother of two.
A rival network insider said: “I heard that Matt had an extramarital affair with gorgeous Natalie, and he’s the father of one of her kids. Everyone’s buzzing that the boy looks just like him.”
Lauer assured his wife that his enemies were trying to sink him with the untrue stories, but the affable host’s marriage remains on shaky ground, according to sources.
In 2006, The ENQUIRER revealed that a then-pregnant Annette filed for divorce amid rumors that Matt had gotten involved with Natalie while the two covered the Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, that same year.
Annette, 46, withdrew her divorce petition, but two years later the false rumors began flying again when Natalie announced she was 12 weeks pregnant by husband Joe Rhodes, and sources speculated Lauer – who has three children with Annette – could be the father.
At the time, The ENQUIRER gave Rhodes the opportunity to shoot down allegations that his wife was involved with Matt, but he did not deny the outrageous rumors.
Meanwhile, Natalie moved into Ann Curry’s chair as the “Today” news anchor last June when Ann, 55, replaced Meredith Vieira as Lauer’s co-host.
But Curry struggled in the role, with one NBC official reportedly calling her “atrocious” as “GMA” nearly closed the 780,000-viewer gap between the morning shows.
“Matt voiced his displeasure with Ann, saying that they had no chemistry together,” said the source. “The ‘Today’ bosses decided she had to go and gave her a $10 million payout.”
But that just presented another problem for Matt.
“While Natalie has been on the ‘Today’ show every day reading the news, moving to the co-hosting chair alongside Matt simply would have been too much for Annette,” said the source.
“She was determined to keep them from rubbing elbows and getting flirty in front of millions of TV viewers every weekday morning.”