Hoda Kotb named new ‘Today’ co-anchor

“There’s no one I would rather be sitting next to in 2018 …”

Hoda Kotb has taken over Matt Lauer’s role as co-anchor of “Today,” just over one month after the longtime host was fired from his post at the morning show for “inappropriate sexual behavior.”

“We are kicking off the year right because Hoda is officially the co-anchor of ‘Today,’ ” Savannah Guthrie said at the start of Tuesday’s show. “This has to be the most popular decision that NBC has ever made.”

Kotb, 53, will serve as co-anchor during the first two hours of the show, beginning at 7 a.m., and continue to appear on the fourth hour alongside Kathy Lee Gifford.

“There’s no one I would rather be sitting next to in 2018 than you,” Kotb said, grabbing Guthrie’s hand with a smile.

Kotb had stepped in as guest host on the show in Lauer’s absence. Kotb and Guthrie announced Lauer’s termination on air together on Nov. 29, reading a statement that had been emailed to the NBC team. The complaint against Lauer reportedly revolved around an incident that took place between the former host and a female colleague while they were on assignment at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia. Following his firing, other accusations, including summoning a female employee to his office, dropping his pants and reprimanding her for not engaging in a sexual act, were brought forward against him in a Variety article.

“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,” NBC News Chairman Andy Lack said in an email to the staff Tuesday, according to Deadline. “They have an undeniable connection with each other and most importantly, with viewers, a hallmark of ‘Today.’ ”

NBC offered Kotb the role just before the start of the holidays, according to a People exclusive published Tuesday morning.

“Weirdly, it doesn’t feel like the headline because we’ve worked together for a long time,” Kotb told the publication.

Guthrie, who had called Lauer a longtime friend, added that it was “a shock to wake up one day and not have Matt,” but having Kotb step in is “the most natural and comforting thing in the world.”

Meghan Giannotta