The rumors that just won’t go away –MATT LAUER is caught up in an incredible shocking love child scandal!

On the heels of the “Today” host signing a fabulous $25 million-a-year contract with NBC, insiders at competing net­works ignited nasty and unbelievable rumors that the 54-year-old married newsman fathered a child with his news anchor Natalie Morales.

“I heard that Matt had an extra­marital affair with gorgeous Natalie, and he’s the father of one of her kids,” a rival network insider told The ENQUIRER. “Everyone’s buzzing that the boy looks just like him.”

Another industry source said: “The Matt Lauer love child scandal is the worst kept secret among the network morning shows.

“Everyone’s talking about it – even at NBC. He’s trying to get Ann Curry dumped as his co-anchor, and those loyal to her are also talking it up.

“Matt has enemies inside and outside the show’s Studio 1A, and if he’s got this giant skeleton in his closet, there are many who want to see it come out.”

These incredible rumors about Matt are swirling just as the morning show wars have heated up to a fever pitch. “Today’s” lost its lead over ABC’s “Good Morn­ing America”, and CBS has relaunched its morning show with Gayle King as co-host, to stellar reviews.

But affable Matt is still keeping the “To­day” show on top, while his enemies are busy trying to sink him with crazy stories.

The ENQUIRER discovered they have plenty of ammunition.

We revealed that Matt’s roller-coaster marriage suffered a near-fatal blow in 2006 when his wife Annette – pregnant with the couple’s third child – filed for di­vorce before withdrawing the legal papers a month later.

The divorce filing came while the unbe­lievable rumors were surfacing that Matt had gotten involved with Morales during the “Today” show’s coverage of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.

“They got very close and became extremely fond of one another,” a source told The ENQUIRER. “They saw each other when they returned to the U.S.”

Two years later, the rumors again began flying when Morales an­nounced she was 12 weeks pregnant by husband Joe Rhodes.

“There was unbelievable talk that Matt could be the father of her baby!” revealed another show source.

 Incredibly, when we gave Rhodes the opportunity to shoot down allegations that his wife was involved with Matt, he did not deny them to The ENQUIRER.

And Annette’s fears about Matt’s roving eye are well-grounded. Sources told The ENQUIRER that the bald­ing broadcaster carried on with Jessica Thorman, a mar­ried Florida woman, until just months before his 1998 wedding to Annette.

Jessica’s husband Zoltan Molnar accused Lauer of wrecking their marriage, stating: “He’s not the goody-goody nice guy he looks like on TV!”

Published reports claim that Lauer is anxious to replace his “Today” show co-host Ann Curry, who assumed the position after Meredith Vieira left last year.

Sources say he wants a big­ger personality beside him in the all-out ratings war that’s seen his former TV partner Katie Couric recently sit in on “GMA” to boost its ratings with NBC tapping char­ismatic Sarah Palin to join Lauer as a guest co-host.

“The morning show competition has never been hotter and Matt is the reigning king,” said the rival network source. “Everyone wants to see him get knocked off his pedestal and that’s why these out­rageous baby daddy rumors have resurfaced.”

Morales, 39, remains part of the “Today” show team, reporting the news. She recently told an inter­viewer that she still manages to cook dinner every night for her in­vestment banker husband Joe and their sons – Josh, 8, and Luke, 3.

Meanwhile, Lauer just bought 40 acres to build a horse farm down the road from his and An­nette’s $15 million mansion in the Hamptons.

Said the network source: “I think he’s trying to keep Annette happy after years of causing her misery.”