MATT LAUER should pack his “Today” show bags – and take Kathie Lee Gifford with him!
That’s the opinion of staffers at the once-invincible NBC morning show after nine jobs reportedly were slashed in recent budget cuts while Matt kept his $21.5 million annual salary.
Irate staffers are also attacking Kathie Lee, who rallied them into signing a letter of support for host Matt as ratings plunged.
“Many members of the ‘Today’ staff would like nothing more than to have their names stricken from that letter,” said a source.
“They’d like to see both Matt and Kathie Lee ridden out on a rail!
“One staffer told me, ‘A lot of people here feel betrayed. We all signed that letter, but when the shoe was on the other foot, Matt did nothing to support us.’”
Earlier this year Matt, 55, was roundly blamed for engineering the firing of his former “Today” co-host Ann Curry.
Kathie Lee – co-anchor of “Today’s” fourth hour with Hoda Kotb – was so fed up with the criticism that she drafted a letter of support for Matt in April.
She collected signatures from the “Today” cast and crew, including Matt’s co-host Savannah Guthrie, “Today” weatherman Al Roker and fill-in co-host Willie Geist.
“We all wanted to say something to Matt, and nobody wanted to put him in a position that would make him uncomfortable,” Kathie Lee said at the time. “So unbeknownst to anyone higher up at NBC, I just started this thing.”
Kathie Lee, 60, planned to pay for a full-page ad and publish it in a national newspaper, but later canned the idea at Matt’s request.
Matt called the gesture “very sweet” and described Kathie Lee as “one of the dearest people.”
He told “Tonight” show host Jay Leno: “She’s kind and she’s compassionate… My mother always told me in times of adversity, you find out who your friends are. Kathie Lee’s a great friend.”
Adding fuel to the staffers’ ire, published reports earlier this summer described Matt as demeaning and dismissive toward them. Besides that, rival “Good Morning America” recently beat “Today” in the May sweeps for the first time in nearly two decades.
Desperate to restore “Today” to its glory days, Matt has reportedly been treating staff members to lunch at least twice a week at his favorite Manhattan restaurant.
“Matt wants to hear from producers and other staffers about story ideas, concerns they have or any other issues,” said a source.
Despite that olive branch, staffers feel the so-called “Alpha Host” is vulnerable, and they’d like to see Matt hit the road, along with Kathie Lee.
“Everyone at ‘Today’ has not only had it up to here with Matt,” said the source, “they’re disgusted with her too.”