Hours ago, Kotb was named Lauer's successor as co-anchor of Today. She will join Savannah Guthrie for two hours a day, starting at 7 a.m., and will continue to clink wine glasses with Kathie Lee Gifford in the fourth hour. E! News spoke to Kotb in between segments Tuesday, where she revealed Lauer was among those who privately congratulated her on the promotion.
"He was sweet this morning. Certain texts popped up, and there was one from Matt: 'Congratulations!'" said Kotb, who joined Today a decade ago. "And he said some nice words."
Lauer has stayed out of the public eye since he was fired from NBC News in November amid allegations of sexual misconduct. A staple on Today since the '90s, he was "embarrassed" after coming clean. "There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions," Lauer said, in part. "To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry..."
"It meant the world to me to hear from him," Kotb told E! News Tuesday. "It was really nice."
Lauer's abrupt exit didn't just surprise viewers—it surprised Guthrie, Kotb and many of their colleagues. "Matt is really focused on his family, and I think that's where his heart is and that's where it should be," Guthrie told E! News. "We've kept in touch and we've all been reaching out, and, you know...I don't think there's anyone who would be more thrilled than Matt to see Hoda in this role. He adores Hoda and he knows how good she is and so I know that to be true."
Kotb has been by Guthrie's side ever since Lauer left.
"Over the past several weeks, Hoda has seamlessly stepped into the co-anchor role alongside Savannah, and the two have quickly hit the ground running. They have an undeniable connection with each other and most importantly, with viewers, a hallmark of Today," NBC News Chairman Andy Lack said in a staff email Tuesday, just before Today aired. "Hoda is, in a word, remarkable. She has the rare ability to share authentic and heartfelt moments in even the most difficult news circumstances. It's a tribute to her wide range and her innate curiosity."
Guthrie added that it's a "dream" to permanently share her anchoring duties with Kotb. "The job can be intense, and you want a partner who has your back," the journalist explained to E! News. Moreover, "The fact that we are two women seems just right with where our culture is."
(E! and NBC are both members of the NBCUniversal family.)