‘Today’ show hosts pictured from (l-r) Hoda Kotb, Al Roker, Matt Lauer, Natalie Morales and Keir Simmons covering the Rio Olympics in August of  2016. 
Photo: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
Photo: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Former ‘Today’ co-host Natalie Morales ‘shocked’ over Matt Lauer's firing 

Former “Today” show co-host Natalie Morales was among many of Matt Lauer’s former colleagues who woke up to the news Wednesday that NBC News had fired him.

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Morales addressed Lauer’s firing on “Access Hollywood” Wednesday with co-host Kit Hoover.  She read part of NBC News chairman Andy Lack’s statement before sharing her own feelings about the termination.

Morales said she was “shocked by Lauer’s dismissal.

“The ‘Today’ show has been my family for 16 years now and it is difficult to process the news,” she said.

“I have personally dealt with rumors in the past that were hurtful to me, to my family. They diminished my hard work. I have addressed those rumors head on in the past. That is not the story today,” she explained.

“The story today is about the courage of the colleague that did come forward and when and if she wants to tell her story publicly, I am sure she will. It did take a lot of courage for her to come forward. It was no doubt a very painful decision,” Morales said.

>>Related: Matt Lauer’s colleagues shocked over his firing

Morales and Hoover promised to continue to report any developments in the story in the days ahead.

“We are in a climate and a culture where women are finally not afraid as they once were about being able to speak up and being able to come forward and speak out about what is not appropriate,” Morales said.

Hoover then introduced the moment Savannah Guthrie held back tears as she and Hoda Kotb also promised “Today” viewers that they were going to report the news, but were “still trying to process” Lauer’s termination.

Like many others, Hoover wondered who might replace Lauer on the show and suggested that two female anchors might takeover.

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“Could be!” Morales said. “We will have to wait and see on that. I think it’s jumping ahead of everything right now. I think right now the stories are still coming out.” Morales was the victim of rumors in 2012 in a story by the National Enquirer that alleged she and Lauer had a behind-the-scenes affair and that Lauer might have fathered one of her children. In 2016,

Morales, who moved to Los Angeles in 2016 after accepting a job to co-host “Access Hollywood,” denied the rumors and so did Lauer.

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“There is absolutely no truth to this completely absurd story. It is damaging, hurtful and extremely sexist. I have proven myself in all aspects of my job as a news professional and journalist, and am adding to my role, taking on three jobs with ‘Access Hollywood Live’ and ‘Access Hollywood,’ in addition to ‘Today.’ This move was dictated by me and my desire to grow in my career,” Morales said at the time. “Any insinuations beyond that are uninformed.”

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