The rumors raged in early 2017 that the “Today” show lineup was primed for a shake-up. According to reports citing inside sources, NBC was in talks with the former Fox News anchor to take over the 9 a.m. slot, which at the time was anchored by Roker and Hall.
Then on Feb. 1, 2017, NBC made the abrupt announcement: Hall left the network the day before, on the day her contract was up. Her quick departure also meant she was not able to say goodbye on air.
“Tamron is an exceptional journalist, we valued and enjoyed her work at ‘Today’ and MSNBC and hoped that she would decide to stay,” a statement from NBC said. “We are disappointed that she has chosen to leave, but we wish her all the best.”
In a statement of her own, Hall said “the last 10 years have been beyond anything I could have imagined, and I’m grateful. I’m also very excited about the next chapter. To all my great colleagues, I will miss you and I will be rooting for you.”
Despite the calm words, Page Six came out with some juicy details, including that Hall reportedly learned she was being replaced just before she went on air the Friday before. Roker posted a tweet celebrating the seven-week ratings streak the 9 a.m. hour had enjoyed, reportedly hours after they learned about being replaced by Kelly.
People reported Hall viewed the idea of being replaced as a demotion; citing its own sources, People wrote Hall had been offered a multimillion-dollar deal, and she knew her slot was never set in stone.
Regardless of when and how she found out, fans of Hall were not pleased, particularly since she was the first black female anchor on “Today” and her replacement had previous controversies surrounding race (like the time she insisted to kids watching her Fox show that Santa is white and always will be).
Hall’s departure “saddened” the National Association of Black Journalists, which noted that replacing Hall and Roker with Kelly was “seen by industry professionals as whitewashing.” The NABJ also called attention to Kelly’s past work on Fox.
“Kelly has a well-documented history of offensive remarks regarding people of color,” the NABJ said in a statement. “On ‘The Kelly File,’ her Fox News show, the host said then-First Lady Michelle Obama’s commencement address at Tuskegee University pandered to a ‘culture of victimization.’”
It was not the first time “Today” had faced this kind of drama: The shake-up reminded people of Ann Curry’s disastrous 2012 exit, which many blamed partially on her co-host Matt Lauer. Curry broke down in tears as she said goodbye on air: “For all of you who saw me as a groundbreaker: I’m sorry I couldn’t carry the ball over the finish line, but man, I did try!"
This week, Kelly apologized and said she was sorry for her comments about blackface. She said she “defended the idea, saying as long as it was respectful and part of a Halloween costume, it seemed okay. Well, I was wrong.”
She also sent an email to NBC staffers, but not everyone felt it was sufficient, including one of the “Today” personalities who used to be a co-host during her time slot.
“The fact is, while she apologized to the staff, she owes a bigger apology to folks of color around the country,” Roker said Wednesday.
For her part, Hall has stayed quiet and refrained from publicly commenting on this week’s controversy. She has been busy, however, posting links on Twitter to her public appearances, including photos of her presenting Soledad O’Brien with an award at the Harlem United Boulevard Bash Gala.
“Crazy happy!!!!" she wrote, retweeting O’Brien’s photo of the pair from the gala. “Living our best lives...”
Hall is launching her own talk show with ABC next fall.