Al Roker and Deborah Roberts’ Marriage Had the ‘Toughest Test Ever’ Over a Major Interview

Today Show star Al Roker and his wife, ABC News correspondent Deborah Roberts, have been married for over 25 years. Both popular broadcast journalists, Roker and Roberts are on competing network yet usually cover different news topics. When Roberts landed an interview with a music legend following the death of Whitney Houston, she was stunned to find out her husband would be doing the sit-down.

'Today Show' star  Al Roker (R) and wife Deborah Roberts attend the "The A Word" New York screening at Museum Of Arts And Design in New York City
ABC News correspondent Deborah Roberts and ‘Today Show’ star Al Roker’ | Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Al Roker’s wife Deborah Roberts got the big ‘get’

When Whitney Houston died in 2012, the news came as a shock to her friends and fans. With the story flooding the headlines, Roberts decided to reach out to an iconic singer who was close with the late pop star to get an interview for her show, 20/20.

“Al had interviewed her once or twice, and we had been invited to intimate concerts and dinner with her,” Roberts wrote in her book with Roker Been There, Done That: Family Wisdom For Modern Times, though she never named the singer. “I felt we had a nice rapport. I had her phone number and felt comfortable reaching out to her even during this tragic moment. My executive producer, David Sloan, was thrilled by the prospect of landing such a huge get.”

Since Roker hadn’t been assigned to cover Houston’s death, both he and Roberts assumed there wouldn’t be a conflict. Roberts revealed that Roker even helped her set up the interview and was thrilled for her getting this opportunity. The singer agreed to Roberts’ request for an interview.

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“She graciously thanked me and said she was coming to New York later that week, and would be happy to sit down and talk to me,” Roberts recalled. “I was ecstatic! Getting an exclusive with this elusive megastar on everyone’s list was a major coup. I conveyed the good news to David Sloan, who was beyond thrilled too, and informed the executives throughout the network that I had snared the scoop of the week.”

Al Roker unintentionally scooped wife Deborah Roberts

Roberts confirmed her interview with the singer once again, and reached out to her when she was scheduled to arrive in New York. For some reason, the ABC news personality wasn’t able to get a hold of the star, but did learn some shocking news.

“I called her as planned,” Roberts said. “Much to my surprise, she didn’t call me back. This is never a good sign in journalism, especially the day before a big interview is set to air. … Unbeknownst to me, she had been approached by someone… from the Today Show. And, astonishingly, she agreed to also do an interview for them, but only with Al.”

Apparently, Roker’s producer had approached the singer for an interview without his knowledge.

“I had no clue that this was happening and neither did Al!” she explained. “It only got worse. … One of our show bookers called to say the singer had changed her mind and was only interviewing with Al. I was devastated. … I had a lot riding on that interview, and Al knew it. I felt humiliated, angry, and betrayed. My reputation, my credibility, and everything I had promised to deliver was on the line.”

Al Roker’s generous gesture to his wife Deborah Roberts

Roberts tried everything in her power to woo the celebrity back, such as sending flowers and reasoning with her manager, but to no avail. She even pleaded with Roker to give up the interview.

“I realize I was being selfish, but I reasoned that Al was at a big enough place in his career to decline without penalty,” she wrote. “I, on the other hand, needed a boost. … I pleaded with Al to change his mind. ‘You know what this means to me. You need to tell them you can’t do this.'”

Revealing that Roker was just as distraught over the situation as she was, Roberts shared the selfless gesture her husband made when he went to conduct the landmark interview.

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“He did something that would forever change my feelings for him,” Roberts remarked. “Before he would allow the cameras to roll, he pleaded with the singer to do two interviews – a short one with him, then a short one with me. His producer nearly fainted, but it was an unbelievable gesture of love in the midst of a professional crisis. … What my husband did that morning was above and beyond the call of duty. … He selflessly put my feelings and my career needs above his own.”

Sadly, the singer insisted on only one interview, and that was with Roker. Though timing would suggest that Roker’s February 2012 sit-down with Aretha Franklin was the interview in question, Roberts kept the music star anonymous in their book. She was soon able to score an on-air meeting with gospel legend BeBe Winans, who had been a close friend to Houston.