‘Today’: Betty White Twice Turned Down Offers to Anchor the Morning Show

Betty White
Betty White | Vincent Sandoval/WireImage

Actor Betty White is a renaissance woman, dipping her toe into nearly every area of entertainment. Known for her comedic roles in The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Golden Girls, one area that’s difficult to imagine the veteran actor in is as a morning show anchor.

Yet, Betty White really was offered the opportunity to wake America up each weekday morning on NBC on Today.

Here’s what the 98-year-old had to say.

Betty White has been laying low during the pandemic

Since March 2020, the actor has been taking care of herself, remaining in quarantine to protect herself from the coronavirus (COVID-19). At the time, Today reported learning that “Betty is fine” from a representative of the television personality’s.

A close friend of White’s, Tom Sullivan, told Closer that she spends her time keeping her brain actively engaged, completing crosswords.

“She reads the L.A. Times cover to cover,” he said. “She owns literally thousands of crossword puzzle books and is constantly doing them to keep her mind jumping. This is really serious with her.”

‘This Is ‘Today’ with…Betty White’?

In an interview with Television Academy Foundation, Betty White was asked about the opportunity she’d turned down in the 1970s to host the Today Show.

“My decisions weren’t always wise, but they were done with conviction because to me, the life you live is always more important than the job you do. And place has always been terribly important to me.”

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“I love the West Coast…I married [game show host] Allen [Ludden] and moved to New York and had a beautiful home up in Westchester for six years,” she said. “But I was on that westbound plane whenever there was an excuse.”

She described how the Today Show‘s producers approached her about becoming a permanent part of their program.

“They asked me if I would be interested in doing the Today Show, being the gal on the show,” she recalled. “And again it would mean living there and I couldn’t do that and explained all that. That was one of those getting up at four o’clock in the morning and going to the studio. It was a way of life and terribly interesting and a great idea but I said, ‘No, I don’t think so.'”

‘Today’ only had eyes for Betty White

The show’s producers wouldn’t take no for an answer and proposed that White live in New York City during the week and go home to the west coast on the weekends, the best of both worlds.

“‘How about if we put you up at the St. Regis Hotel?,'” she recalled the producers’ insistence. “‘You’d have your own apartment at the hotel, you’d fly home on weekends, do the show during the week and fly back to California.’ And at first, I said, ‘That’s not a bad idea!’ But then I began figuring out time, because that was before jets, so it was an 8-hour flight, you know? I thought, ‘That’s not going to be terribly practical.'”

Barbara Walters on 'Today'
Barbara Walters on ‘Today’ | NBC NewsWire/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

White’s agent at the time thought she had lost her senses. “He thought I was out of my mind! He just went crazy and said, ‘You’re nuts!'”

Ever the entertainer, Betty White jokingly concluded by noting that “Poor NBC, they were stuck with a gal named Barbara Walters. And, you know, they somehow managed to muddle through.”