The 53-year-old veteran journalist — who had been filling in for Lauer after he was fired in November for alleged inappropriate sexual behavior, and has now officially replaced him — tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week’s issue that neither she nor her co-anchor Savannah Guthrie will be making the kind of money that their ousted former colleague did.
“The answer is no — that’s not happening,” says Kotb of whether she’d be seeing similar figures in her paycheck.
“For either of us,” adds Guthrie, 46.
Kotb continued, “I think the whole money thing for me, I’ve always been sort of — I know it sounds ridiculous that I’m going to say this, but I really have done jobs I liked for the job I liked because I never wanted to be happy every other Friday on pay day. Like, I didn’t want that to be the happy day. I wanted to feel good throughout. So no, I’m not making Matt Lauer money. Not even close.” (Lauer reportedly signed a two-year, $20 million contract in 2016.)
Kotb and Guthrie also revealed how they leaned on one another in the wake of Lauer’s dismissal, which they broke together on air.
“I think you could see from the moment that the news happened that our hearts were broken, and in lots of ways, they still are,” says Guthrie. “That feeling was shared through our whole newsroom and our whole Today show staff, because it sounds like cliché or a promo line, but it happens to be true: We are family, and we do love each other, and families do go through hard times, and when that happens in good families, you just get closer.”
“You pull together and you focus on the foundation and what keeps you together,” she continues. “I think that’s what we’ve all been trying to do. And for me, I just am trying to get comfortable with how complicated the feelings around all of it are, and it is complicated. And just trying to have love and compassion for everyone concerned.”
- For more on Hoda and Savannah, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
“We were just trying to make it through those days together,” adds Kotb. “Sometimes when you go through something with someone, you see something special. I think that’s what happened.”
Guthrie, for one, didn’t want that “something special” to end. “It was such a shock to wake up one day and not have Matt, but it was the most natural and comforting thing in the world to have Hoda right there,” she says. “No one wanted that to stop.”
In addition to her co-anchor duties, Kotb will continue hosting the show’s third hour alongside Kathie Lee Gifford.
Today airs weekdays (beginning at 7 a.m. ET) on NBC.