Al Roker’s Wife Deborah Roberts Said Turning Down ‘GMA’ Anchor Role Was a ‘Career Torpedo’

Al Roker of the Today Show and wife Deborah Roberts of ABC News tied the knot in 1995. With both journalists being on major networks, Roker and Roberts have busy careers in news. When Roberts was pregnant with their first child, daughter Leila, she was faced with a decision that had a major impact on her career.

Al Roker and Deborah Roberts attend the Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Summer 2019 TCA Press Tour Event
Al Roker and Deborah Roberts | Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage

Al Roker and wife Deborah Roberts were expecting their first child in 1998

After embarking on in vitro fertilization, Roberts was thrilled to be expecting her first child with Roker in 1998.

“This was a treasured pregnancy,” Roberts shared in their book Been There, Done That: Family Wisdom for Modern Times. “I could feel the radiance emanating from this pea-size ball of hope and light within me. I cherished every flutter and twinge I felt.”

While her husband had his steady, high-profile gig on Today, Roberts was making a name for herself at ABC. With longtime anchors Joan Lunden and Charlie Gibson having moved on to other ventures, Roberts was often asked to pinch hit on Good Morning America.

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“Just as thrilling, my career was on the ascent,” Roberts said. “ABC was turning to me often, and I was becoming a big part of the family, especially at Good Morning America. The further along I got in my pregnancy, the more we incorporated it into on-air conversations as a way for the audience to get to know me.”

Deborah Roberts was offered ‘GMA’ anchor spot

Though Roberts was enjoying the rise in her professional life, she realized that there would have to be changes when their baby arrived. With GMA seeking to boost ratings, Roberts’ presence on the show was becoming more frequent due to her connection with viewers. When she was asked by the network’s VP of Talent Relations if she could envision herself permanently on the morning program, Roberts pondered how she could balance the high-profile role and a newborn.

“I knew [Amy Entelis] was taking my temperature in case the network wanted to offer me the prized job as news anchor,” Roberts explained. “Like any ambitious reporter, I told her ‘Of course I could.’ I was flattered and thrilled. I was also terrified! I should have been honest with Amy, but I was worried it would be career suicide.”

David Westin, head of ABC News Division, called a meeting with Roberts shortly before her due date and offered her the coveted GMA anchor role. Roberts stalled on making a decision.

“Instead of being excited and appreciative, I was hesitant and a bit aloof,” Roberts admitted. “I asked if I could get back to him with my answer. I spent the weekend discussing the pros and cons with Al. … There was a lot to consider. I was about to have my first baby, a baby I’d struggled to conceive. I knew if I signed on to the troubled morning show, I would need to hit the ground running immediately – no maternity leave.”

Deborah Roberts felt that turning down the ‘GMA’ job damaged her career

Roberts ultimately decided that giving up those precious first few months with her baby was too great a sacrifice to make, and rejected the offer. Unfortunately, the decision had a negative impact on her career.

“On Monday morning I reluctantly passed,” the journalist recalled. “David Westin was visibly surprised. Who would turn down such an opportunity? It was a defining moment that I now realize was a career torpedo.”

After Roberts and Roker welcomed Leila and she went back to ABC following maternity leave, Roberts felt a definite shift.

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“When I returned to work, things were slightly different,” she remarked. “Suddenly the assignments I had been used to getting dried up. Any ascension toward the anchor world came to a halt. … The buzz of excitement had quieted. I’m not going to lie – it was painful.

Roberts admitted that at times, she wondered if she made the right choice, but discovered she was content with her decision.

“I was able to bond with my daughter in a way I wouldn’t have if I had gone that route, and for that reason alone, I wouldn’t change a thing,” Roberts wrote. “I had second thoughts about my decision for months – okay, for years. But I ultimately made peace with my choice. Every woman – and I hope every parent – has to weigh what is best for their family as a whole.”