MEREDITH VIEIRA ALREADY SPARRING WITH AL ROKER

Published on: September 21, 2006
MEREDITH VIEIRA ALREADY SPARRING WITH AL ROKER

By TONY BRENNA

"TODAY" show weatherman Al Roker isn't pleased after his first on-air run-in with Meredith Vieira. In the first 30 minutes at her new job, Meredith compared the good-natured Al to a dead hamster!

Meredith put Al on the spot by saying: "I'm particularly fond of you because I had a hamster named Al while I was growing up."

Al, a 10-year veteran of the show, seemed to be taken off guard and blurted out, "Oh, really!"

"Big Al," continued Meredith. "Yes, he did die."

Al tried to get into the spirit of the strange story by commenting: "He went toes up! He's in a coffee can in your backyard ... OK!"

Matt Lauer stepped in to change the subject, but behind the scenes, Al was embarrassed and thought he and Meredith had gotten off on the wrong foot, say sources.

Al was also aware that in an interview prior to joining the show, Meredith had praised Matt and Ann Curry, but had never mentioned him.

"Al sees himself as far more than a weatherman. He considers himself the glue that holds the team together — often providing the humor that lightens the heavy moments," explained the source.

"He felt the hamster story wasn't particularly funny — and that Meredith wasn't showing him the respect he deserved."