The former Entertainment Tonight correspondent jumps to rival shows

By Pamela Warrick
Updated August 23, 2005 06:00 PM

Maria Menounos, the 27-year-old Entertainment Tonight correspondent who once covered the Oscars wearing millions of dollars worth of borrowed diamonds, is joining the Today show and Access Hollywood, PEOPLE reports.

Menounos will be a West Coast contributor for the morning show and act as a special correspondent for Access, a direct rival to her former employer.

“I’m so thrilled to be part of the NBC family,” Menounos said in a statement. “To be working at such a cutting-edge show like Access, and have the opportunity to be a part of the No. 1 morning news program on television is so exciting.”

Whether Access will dress Menounos in a $2.5 million diamond-studded gown – as E.T. did at the 2004 Academy Awards – remains to be seen, but insiders say that, jeweled wardrobe or not, Access offered her a more lucrative contract.

Reports that she was pushed out of E.T. were flatly denied by a source close to negotiations who said both entertainment shows wanted the former Miss Massachusetts Teen USA.

“We’ve always been huge fans of Maria and believe she has the skills, attitude and style that fits Access Hollywood perfectly,” said the show’s executive producer Rob Silverstein.

Entertainment Tonight execs have not yet returned calls.

Menounos’s acting career has included such roles as the sexy nurse in this summer’s action film Fantastic Four and regular appearances on One Tree Hill.

In 2004 she was named one of PEOPLE’s “50 Most Beautiful.”