The untold truth of Lara Spencer

She's known all across America, but Lara Spencer wasn't always a high-flying TV presenter. The Good Morning America co-host worked her way up the ladder, beginning with a journalism major at Penn State. "My first taste of the business was the glamorous job of pulling camera cables so they wouldn't get tangled while the football games were filmed," Spencer told Marie ClaireShe went on to work as a reporter for Tennessee's WDEF-TV, Long Island's News 12, and WABC-TV Eyewitness News in New York City, where she got her debut as an anchor.

"Going from reporter to anchor is like going from wide receiver to quarterback," she said. "As anchor, you're running the plays and having the feel of the show — and knowing when to be more upbeat or slow down." Within four years ABC, by way of Diane Sawyer herself, came calling. Spencer became a national correspondent for Good Morning America, before ultimately graduating to co-host. It was a long road for Spencer, but she made it. That doesn't mean life at the top of the morning show game has been a breeze, however.

From the fierce debate after some commentary she made about a certain famous child on GMA, to her behind-the-scenes drama at the morning staple, this is the untold truth of Lara Spencer.

Success has been a habit for Lara Spencer

Spencer's bikini bod made quite the splash in 2017. Per People, the GMA co-host, 48 at the time, was vacationing in Nantucket with family when she shared a pic of herself in a bathing suit on her Instagram. The response to her washboard abs was a mixture of amazement and confusion — where did that fantastic physique come from? Turns out Spencer has been in great shape most of her adult life, having taken up diving while a student at Long Island's Garden City High School.

"Looking back, I realize that putting yourself out there, literally, on the edge of the platform is very similar to doing live TV," Spencer told Marie Claire. "It's taking the plunge and knowing, with lots of practice, it'll work out fine." She went to Penn State on an athletic scholarship, and was able to continue her diving. Spencer also excelled at swimming and was named an All-American Athlete, graduating with the class of 1991. She returned to the university in 2014 as acting grand marshal for that year's homecoming.

"We wanted someone that represents hard work, intellect and charisma, and Lara is all that and more," the director of Penn State's Homecoming Executive Committee said in a statement. Spencer was picked because of "her passion for Penn State, her continuous interest in University-wide activities, as well as her dedication to service."

Lara Spencer denies sitting in Donald Trump's lap

When Donald Trump was still a presidential candidate in 2015, Lara Spencer sparked controversy when she appeared to sit in his lap for a photo. Trump was at ABC to be interviewed by GMA co-host and ABC News anchor, George Stephanopoulos. Spencer had worn a Donald Trump costume for GMA's Halloween show just a few days earlier, which became a point of conversation between her and the former Apprentice host, according to The Daily BeastWhen a GMA photographer spotted the two chatting, they snapped what would become a highly controversial photo — but Spencer claimed that it wasn't what it looked like.

The picture appears to show the presenter perched on Trump's lap with her arm around him and vice versa, but neither's legs are visible in the shot. According to Spencer, it's an optical illusion. She insisted that the Republican candidate was sitting on a stool at the time — and she 100 percent wasn't sharing it with him. "Let's clear this up — I'm standing next to Donald Trump," she posted to Instagram in response to the backlash. "Said a quick hello and welcomed him to the GMA studio for first time since he announced his candidacy."

Network sources backed her account up, but many of Spencer's Instagram followers still weren't impressed. "This guy disrespects women does not apologize and you welcome him with open arms," one angry user fumed (via the Daily Beast), adding, "That's what's wrong with America."

Lara Spencer came for the future king ...

The Trump controversy was a big thing in America, but Lara Spencer caused controversy on a global scale in 2019 when she seemingly mocked Prince George on an episode of Good Morning AmericaShe and her co-hosts were discussing the curriculum that Prince William and Kate Middleton's son was following, and Spencer seemed to find the fact that George was studying ballet highly amusing. "In addition to the usual first or second grade things like math, science and history, the future King of England will be putting down the Play-Doh to take on religious studies, computer programming, poetry and ballet, among other things," Spencer said, pausing as if to prompt laughter from her colleagues and the studio audience.

"Prince William says, 'George absolutely loves ballet,'" Spencer continued. "We'll see how long that lasts. [...] Between the religious studies and the computer programming, I just want to go back to the Play-Doh!" Unsurprisingly, the backlash against her comments was swift. The hashtag #BoysDanceToo exploded on social media (via Town & Country), with numerous male dancers speaking up on behalf of the prince and criticizing Spencer. "I found these comments to be very upsetting," famous choreographer Travis Wall, best-known for So You Think You Can Dance, said in a video response posted to Instagram. "You have now added fuel to the fire to a massive problem in this country, which is bullying."

... and quickly admitted that she missed

The day after she made her ill-advised comments about the future King of England, Lara Spencer apologized on Instagram. Calling her comments "insensitive," she urged her followers to chase their dreams no matter what. "From ballet to anything one wants to explore in life, I say GO FOR IT," she captioned the post. "I fully believe we should all be free to pursue our passions. Go climb your mountain and love every minute of it." The post gained thousands of likes, but for many, it wasn't good enough.

"I find Lara Spencer's response to be insensitive and her apology a cop out," recording artist and theater actor Shoshana Bean tweeted. "Not good enough for me. ... This statement needs to be made on air in the same forum she so freely judged and criticized." Bean tagged GMA in the tweet, and the producers apparently agreed with her, because Spencer made a second, more earnest apology on the show a few days later. "I screwed up," she said. "The comment I made about dance was insensitive, it was stupid, and I am deeply sorry. ... I have learned about the bravery it takes for a young boy to pursue a career in dance."

Shoshana Bean wasn't the only celeb who condemned Spencer for her comments on boys in ballet. According to People, Rosie O'Donnell, George Takei, Derek Hough, and Debbie Allen all spoke out against her.

Is Lara Spencer's GMA career on thin ice?

Was Lara Spencer already walking on thin ice at ABC when she made those inflammatory comments about Prince George? In 2018, with the battle between Good Morning America and its fierce rival (NBC's Today) heating up, GMA made some changes, reducing Spencer's hours from five days a week to just three. Producers wanted more focus on the favored trio of Robin Roberts, George Stephanopoulos, and Michael Strahan, according to PageSix. Sources claim that "Spencer's team leaked a story to Peoplethat made it appear as though it had been her decision (she wanted more time to "continue building her lifestyle brand," the statement claimed) when that allegedly wasn't true. "Lara's good at her job, but it's not like the [ratings] are affected when she's not on [the show]," the insider said.

The higher-ups wasted no time in updating the promotional material. According to Fox News, new publicity shots for ABC's flagship morning show featuring only Roberts, Stephanopoulos, and Strahan were rushed out. In what another insider described as a "heartless" move by the network, one of these new posters was put up on a bus stop right outside ABC News' Upper West Side offices, where Spencer would undoubtedly see it. "They posted it right there so it would be in her face every day when she comes to work," the source said.

GMA staffers were reportedly 'thrilled' about Lara Spencer's reduced role

At least one insider felt that GMA producers had been "heartless" in the way they dealt with Lara Spencer, but according to Page Six sources, the majority of "rank and file" GMA staffers were "thrilled" when they learned that her hours had been reduced. "She treats staff badly, she yells at people and she makes a lot of extra work for people," an insider revealed. This was corroborated by an ABC source, who spoke to Fox News about the backstage reaction to Spencer's new workload. "The GMA people are thrilled she's being pushed out," they claimed. "She's a bully and a blamer."

Fox News additionally claimed that Spencer is said to be a hard person to work with. She reportedly "screams at her producers daily," and allegedly doesn't always see eye to eye with her co-hostsSpencer was apparently also unhappy when Michael Strahan was given a full-time gig on GMA because she wanted the lead spot on the anchor desk. However, an inside source debunked the idea that there was a rift between Spencer and Strahan ("Lara and Michael are very close friends," the source told E! News), but this wasn't the first time that rumors of a feud had surfaced.

Is there a secret feud between Lara Spencer and Amy Robach?

Another Good Morning America colleague that Lara Spencer allegedly doesn't along with is Amy Robach. According to reports, Spencer wasn't at all pleased when Robach took over from the departing Josh Elliott as news anchor. Spencer was made a co-host just a few weeks later, as rumors of a rift between her and Robach ran rife in the press. "When Amy got promoted to news anchor apparently GMA felt it needed to up Lara's title to keep her happy," TMZ claimed. 

Speaking to RadarOnline, one GMA insider said, "Among the gripes Amy has with Lara is that she shamelessly flirts with the male staff and guests. It's cringe-worthy, according to Amy, and she hates to see it." Michael Strahan was on the verge of joining the team at the time, and Robach was apparently worried that the "ick factor" would be off the charts. "Lara is a married woman, and it's just unprofessional in Amy's opinion," the insider added.

The alleged beef between Spencer and Robach is said to be about more than just flirting, however. Robach had to undergo a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer, and she reportedly feels as though Spencer blew her off during her treatment. "Lara never came to visit Amy in the hospital, or even called her to see how she was doing," RadarOnline's source claimed.

Lara Spencer is a New York Times bestseller

Not only is Lara Spencer a published author, she's done something that every writer dreams about — and she's done it twice. The GMA co-host released her second book, Flea Market Fabulous: Designing Gorgeous Rooms with Vintage Treasures, to critical acclaim in 2014. "The new book made it on The New York Times bestseller list, as did my first, I Brake for Yard Sales, in 2012," Spencer told Marie Claire. "I'm glad, because now I know I'm not crazy for loving vintage furniture so much. Others are as addicted as I am."

Spencer has thrifting in her blood. According to HGTV, she spent a good chunk of her childhood frequenting secondhand shops, yard sales, and auctions with her family. Over the years, she became a pro at spotting a bargain, though she insists that her ability to find a great deal isn't the reason she loves flea markets so much. "It's not about the money," Spencer told the Los Angeles Times. "It's about creating really fun, personal rooms that have loads of character and make you smile."

You can find Lara Spencer on HGTV, too

When she's not co-hosting Good Morning America, Lara Spencer still spends time in front of the camera for her HGTV show, Flea Market Flip. Each episode follows two teams as they shop for second-hand bargains that they then attempt to fix up and sell for a profit. Spencer called the show her "passion project" during an interview with New York's Daily News. "I've been doing this for as long as I can remember," she said of her love for refurbishing. "So it was a natural leap [to do a show] in which you go to a flea market, find pieces with great potential and fix them up." It turns out this process isn't anywhere near as straightforward as that, however.

A number of past contestants have spilled the beans on how Flea Market Flip actually works, and it's apparently not how it appears on screen. Each team is given "helpers" to bring their build to life, and sometimes it's these talented people that do most of the work, according to former contestant Charlotte Smith. The negotiations between the teams and the sellers are also not as they seem. "They have to stop to have the people selling at the flea sign waivers saying they would be on TV," another former contestant, Sarah Trop, revealed in her blog. "[They] stop to film from different angles and have us explain why we bought what we did."

Lara Spencer was the victim of a makeup scam

Lara Spencer may come across a little blunt with some of her opinions, but she's far from heavy-handed when it comes to her makeup. According to Good Housekeeping, the GMA co-host has "almost-always flawless makeup every time she steps in front of the cameras." This fact didn't go unnoticed by one savvy online scammer, who decided to use Spencer's name and image to promote a fake skincare brad. When the TV presenter caught wind of this, she took to Instagram to warn her fans about the ads and the bogus products they were peddling.

"I am writing because there are fake stories and 'advertisements' floating around the internet that I have started a 'skincare/beauty brand," Spencer wrote. "I did not give permission for my name or likeness to be used in any way and I have no affiliation with these products. We are going to work with authorities to identify the operators of these online fraud sites, but I would love everyone's help in spreading the word!" For many, the warning came too late. "I wish I would have seen this before I was scammed," one of Spencer's followers bemoaned.

Spencer isn't the only HGTV star that this has happened to — Fixer Upper's Joanna Gaines was also exploited by scammers, who circulated false information about the designer quitting her super popular show to start her own beauty line.

Body-shamers attacked Lara Spencer's legs

Lara Spencer was praised for her athletic body in 2017, but she's also experienced what it's like to be targeted by online trolls. In 2018, the journalist and TV presenter posted a picture of her Emmys outfit to Instagram, and the response was quite shocking. The HGTV star (who wore a silver Alice + Olivia dress and Revolve boots in the snap) was cruelly body shamed by bullies, who told her that she shouldn't be exposing her legs at her age.

"I feel embarrassed for you," one Instagram user wrote (via AOL), "can you not see that you do not have 'young' legs? #SaggyKnees." Another user said that Spencer "looked foolish" and reminded her that she wasn't 20 anymore, while a so-called fan of the GMA co-host decided to drag her kids into it. "Love you, watch you every day, but you're a mom," they posted. "What the h*ll with that outfit? That would've embarrassed by children."

Age is a touchy subject for Spencer, who struggled to deal with the fact that she needed a hip replacement before she turned 50 due to a hip dysplasia diagnosis. "I felt there was a stigma attached to a hip replacement, and I didn't know if I would be the same," she told People. "I went into this abyss of, 'What am I going to say to people and my kids?' ... But this isn't an old person's problem, it's an active person's problem."

Why did Lara Spencer divorce her husband of 15 years?

Nobody could deny that Lara Spencer looked stunning when she married tech entrepreneur Rick McVey in 2018. The GMA co-host wore a sleeveless Adam Zohar lace gown for the outdoor ceremony, and she looked a million bucks as her son Duff (one of two teenage children she shares with ex-husband, David Haffenreffer) walked her down the aisle. Judging by the pics they share on Instagram, Spencer and McVey are absolutely loved up. That's great to see, but what exactly went wrong between her and Haffenreffer?

"After a lot of thought, care and consideration, we have decided to end our marriage," they said in a joint statement back in 2015 (via Page Six). "It's a sad decision that did not come easily, especially because we respect and love each other and our children." It all sounded very amicable, but sources close to the couple claim their 15 year relationship was incredibly strained by the end. 

"Lara was the primary breadwinner," an insider told RadarOnline. "Even though David comes from old money, Lara earned significantly more. She wore the pants in the relationship." The fact that Spencer had "never gotten along" with Haffrenreffer's parents also became an issue, as did her behavior around other men, the source added. "Lara's flirting just wore on the marriage as time went by."