The Untold Truth Of Natalie Morales

In addition to her duties as West Coast anchor for NBC's Today show, Natalie Morales also hosts Access Hollywood and the occasional episode of Dateline. That means she's an extremely busy, almost ever-present face on the TV sets of many Americans, but what do we know about her when she's not delivering the news, dishing on Hollywood's latest gossip, or highlighting a bizarre true crime story? Let's dive into the untold truth of this peacock network personality.

She supposedly had an affair with Matt Lauer

Long before Lauer was given the boot from Today for alleged "inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace," he was the subject of another scandal: an alleged affair with Morales. 

According to the National Enquirer, the rumors go all the way back to 2006, when Lauer and Morales allegedly had a tryst while covering the Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. Scandalous whispers lingered for years. There were even stories claiming Morales' younger son was Lauer's "love child." The rumored romance was even cited as a possible reason Morales made the move to the West Coast and Access Hollywood in 2016. 

Sources told Page Six, "There's an awkwardness between Matt and Natalie... He protected her for a long time and now it seems like something has gone awry."

Morales vehemently denied any affair, telling the tabloid, "There is absolutely no truth to this completely absurd story. It is damaging, hurtful and extremely sexist... This move was dictated by me and my desire to grow in my career. Any insinuations beyond that are uninformed."

She allegedly feuded with Tamron Hall

In another Today show behind-the-scenes scandal, it was reported that Morales frequently clashed with co-anchor Tamron Hall, to the point where it allegedly drove a wedge into Morales' relationship with NBC News President Deborah Turness. According to Page Six, Morales and Turness allegedly stopped speaking for months over Turness' perceived desire to "promote Hall into a bigger role."

The Daily Beast even tracked what it believed to be on-air tension between Hall and Morales, including a reference Hall apparently made to an errant tabloid story that reported Morales had been fired from the show. "What are you doing here?" Hall jokingly asked Morales on-air the next day. Morales supposedly wasn't amused.

Neither Hall nor Morales commented publicly on any beef between them, but Today Executive Producer Don Nash weighed in to deny any hard feelings. He told Page Six, "This is total nonsense. As the Today show continues to gain momentum, it sounds like someone is trying to stir up trouble that doesn't exist. Natalie Morales is valued by everyone at the news division from the top down, and her future is with the Today show and NBC News."

She may have banned Kathy Griffin from Today

In 2012, comedian and provocateur Kathy Griffin told USA Today, "I just found out, I'm very excited, I'm re-banned from the Today show... This time my camp heard that it was actually Natalie Morales." According to Griffin, Morales was miffed that Griffin was "rude to her at the Golden Globes" that year and prompted the ban.

Asked by a fan on Twitter (via Radar Online) if she really instituted the ban, Morales wrote, "No. Total bogus PR." A Today spokesperson backed up Morales' denial with an official statement that read: "The idea that Today show anchors and hosts ban guests from appearing on the show is silly. There was no incident between Natalie and Kathy at the Golden Globes or anywhere else. In fact Natalie is a big fan of Kathy's."

But whatever actual beef the two may or may not have had seemingly ended a few years later. Griffin has a 2015 Today appearance credited on her IMDb page, not to mention an affable, if not downright fawning interview Morales granted the comedian on Access Hollywood in 2016.

She does triathlons and marathons

Morales' athletic prowess is well-known to Today diehards, but outside of adventurous segments on the morning show–like this one in which in which she holds her own while training with Olympic athletes– Morales actually puts in some serious training hours in her day-to-day life.

In a 2008 profile for Runner's World, Morales revealed that not only has she run more marathons than we can even list here, but she also runs several miles a day, twice a day, and did so right up to two days before she gave birth to her first son. "My ambition is to run a marathon in every major city," she said. "I'd love to do Paris and run down the Champs-Élysées."

By 2015, Morales added triathlons to her training resume, telling Women's Health that "the most rewarding fitness experience" of her life was completing her first triathlon. "I was petrified of the ocean swim... The morning of the triathlon, sure enough, the surf was rough and there were jellyfish," she said. "It scared me and challenged me, but made me realize if I could overcome my fear, I could try anything. I may not always succeed, but I love trying new, challenging things."

While Morales' training regimen may seem borderline obsessive, it's actually part of her desire for a healthy work-life balance. "For me, being happy is tied to being healthy, and vice versa," she told Experience Life, "And when I make time for myself, I'm a better mom, a happier wife, a better person. I just feel more complete. We all deserve that."

She competed on American Ninja Warrior

In 2015, Morales took her first stab at the infamous American Ninja Warrior obstacle course in a segment for Today, but she fell short on one of the challenges, and by "fell short," we mean she slammed into the water flat on her back. Ouch!

She returned to the intense competition in 2017, this time competing on behalf of Red Nose Day, which is a charity dedicated to ending child poverty. As evidenced in the video above, Morales fared slightly better this time around, making it to the third obstacle before wiping out.

Though part of the appeal of doing the show again was to "conquer some of her fears," her priority was the charitable cause. In an interview with Mario Lopez, she said, "Here in the U.S., just in the last two years, they've raised over $60 million for children's organizations and to help end child poverty, so I'm like, 'You know what? I'm gonna throw my weight behind this.'"

She makes serious bank

It's probably not a huge shock that someone appearing on huge network TV shows is making a good living, but according to Celebrity Net Worth, Morales is doing particularly well. Her contract with NBC is worth a reported $6 million per year. The celebrity wealth tracking site also puts her overall net worth at $16 million, meaning if she doesn't want to wake up at 4 a.m. to read the news ever again, she probably doesn't have to.

She has the same mom struggles as any normal parent

Though she's clearly doing quite well financially, Morales doesn't pay others to take care of her sons, Josh and Luke. She told the Argus Leader, "When I'm home, I'm 100% with them," including cooking meals for them and making them do their chores. Even so, Morales doesn't consider herself a candidate for mom of the year.

In a particularly candid Today segment, she confessed to a rough parenting moment following a wrong turn on the New Jersey Turnpike while taking the boys to soccer. What followed was "an expletive-ridden ride for my children," Morales said. "It was thirty minutes of f-bomb, GD, you name it. My poor kids got very quiet. They were like crickets in the backseat." She even confessed that her husband told her later that night that their youngest had repeated "the GD word" while he slept in their bed with them. "My kids were in shellshock this morning!" she lamented. 

Chin up, girl. We've all been there.  

She's a Sting superfan

In 2017, Morales performed with Sting at the Hollywood Palladium during his Citi Sound Vault concert. It was the realization of a dream for the TV personality, who claims she fell in love with the rock legend's music at the age of 19.

"As a teenager, [Every Breath You Take] was the one song that really stayed with me—high school dances and all of that, I can remember slow dancing to that song," she told Today.

Fortunately for the Access Hollywood host, the old adage "never meet your idols" didn't apply to her, because Sting couldn't have been nicer. Describing him as her "idol," Morales said the "S.O.S." singer was "just a cool, nice, real kind of guy." 

That didn't stop her from having a bit of a starstruck moment. "There are only two people I've ever been completely verklempt with," she said. "He came into the makeup room to get just a little powder. I was in the makeup seat and I was like, 'Uhhhhh'—I could not talk!"

She was an Air Force brat

Thanks to her father's long career as "a high-ranking Air Force officer and later a U.S. diplomat," Morales trapised the world during her childhood. She was born in Taiwan and later lived in Brazil and Panama before a long stretch in Spain, where she says she spent her "formative years," learning Spanish and absorbing the culture.  

For Morales, the experience was nothing but wonderful. "And learning languages has clearly opened so many doors for me," she told Today. "I covered the Chilean miner rescue. I've gone and covered stories in Honduras. Being able to talk to people in different languages has opened up the world to opportunities for me to tell their stories."

She even credits her globetrotting with the reason that her broadcasting accent, or lack thereof, is so spot-on. Morales discussed "Broadcaster English," aka the "standard American accent," with Rachel's English. Morales said that usually comes with training, but she was fortunate. "I didn't really have an accent because I did grow up in so many different places."

She says her dad is the reason she's a journalist

Morales cites her early years of world travel as a huge inspiration in her journalism work, but she also had something of a mentor right at home: her dad. Though Mario Morales made his career in the Air Force, she said he is a consummate communicator.

"He talks to everyone—it doesn't matter if they speak his language. He'll figure out a way to communicate," she told Today. "He's just that kind of person. He loves people, and he loves to hear people's stories."

"I got to see the world at a young age because of my dad," she said, "And I can honestly say it's the reason I'm a journalist. It's the reason I am who I am today."

She threw her dad's toupee under the bus on live TV

Remember how we just got done saying that Natalie holds her father in high esteem? Well, that doesn't mean she isn't above giving him a little good-natured ribbing...on national TV. 

According to the Daily Mail, she made her dad the butt of a joke during a Today segment when she revealed a photo of him at her wedding and said, "My dad with the bad piece back then," apparently referencing his questionable toupee.

Her co-anchors, Willie Geist and Al Roker, lambasted her for the dig, then got Mario on the phone to defend himself. "We used to call it the 'rat rug,'" pops said, jokingly adding, "I felt that period of my life was kind of long gone and forgotten. But now Natalie resurrected it with that picture—and before a national audience." Mario also noted that despite Natalie's request that he not wear the "bad piece" to her wedding, he did so because he "did not want to make a drastic change to my appearance just before the wedding." 

Besides, it could have been worse. Mr. Morales confessed that before the toupee, he used to rock "a very bad comb over."

She has a great relationship with her mom

For as much as Natalie cites her father as a professional role model, she holds up her mother, Penelope Morales, as a mentor in every other aspect of her life. Speaking with Glamour, Natalie said, "I look at my mom everyday, and I just hope and pray that I can, you know, stand up and live up to her example."

When Natalie got the chance to do something special for her mom in collaboration with Today's "Mom I Love You, Because" segment for Mother's Day in 2015, she decided on a day of beauty. "I want my mom to feel like a queen, so I thought let's surprise her with a little bit of glamour, because she deserves that." Natalie's idea was to recreate a photo of her mother taken in the sixties.

During the segment, Natalie revealed the struggles her mom went through growing up, including being abandoned by her own mother. Penelope persevered, put herself through college, met Mario, and started a family. "The one thing she always wanted to be was a mother," Natalie said. "There is no greater mother in my eyes."

She does a lot of charity work

Aside from torturing herself on the grueling American Ninja Warrior obstacle course, Morales keeps her philanthropic plate busy with many other charitable obligations. In a profile for Bella NYC, Morales listed off her do-gooder resume, which includes working with the Muscular Dystrophy Association and with Augie's Quest, a nonprofit pursuing a cure for Lou Gehrig's Disease.

"I am also a champion for the Alzheimer's Association," she said, citing a personal connection to the cause due to the loss of her mother-in-law, who died "after a 17-year battle with early-onset Alzheimer's."

"There are some days when I work from 4 a.m. until 11 p.m. if I have charity functions," Morales told Argus Leader, while discussing yet another organization that is close to her heart–the Challenged Athletes Foundation. "They help give people with disabilities the tools to try what they want to try," Morales said, adding, "Seeing children play sports is such a confidence boost."   

In December 2016, Morales got to combine her passions—exercise and philanthropy—for a collaboration between Reebok and an organization called BOKS or Build Our Kids Success. BOKS is "a free program that provides children across the country with fun physical activities before the school day," reported Today. For the partnership, Morales helped design "limited edition" running shoes, of which Reebok agreed to donate $10 from the sale of each pair to BOKS in addition to a flat donation of $10,000.

She loves living in Los Angeles

Though she's a seasoned world traveller, Natalie called New Jersey/NYC her home for years. In 2016, her transition to West Coast anchor for Today/Access Hollywood required her to relocate to Los Angeles. She discussed how quickly she fell in love with sunny SoCal with Mario Lopez on his radio show, describing a recent trip back to The Big Apple as "hot," "humid," "smelly," and covered in trash. "You move here [LA], and this becomes home, and that's it," she said.

Natalie even participated in a marketing questionnaire for Discover Los Angeles County, citing "the hiking" as one of her favorite things about her new hometown. "The hills are stunning and I can't get enough of being outside," she said, " Every day is pretty close to perfect. My favorite hike locations are the Santa Monica Mountains and Malibu."