White, 66, reportedly contracted COVID in late July while the game show was shooting its annual “Teachers Week” block of episodes, which air in October, Puck News reported in an article published on Friday, August 11.
White was temporarily replaced as the letter turner for several shows set to air this fall. Bridgette Donald-Blue, an L.A. elementary school teacher who was named 2023 California Teacher of the Year, was asked to take over White’s role for the week, according to Puck News.
Remarkably, this will mark only the fourth time — and first time in more than three decades — White has missed tapings of the show in her 41 years of letter turning. White was replaced by Susan Stafford in 1986 after White’s boyfriend, John Gibson, died in a plane crash. Tricia Gist stepped up to the board in 1991 when White went on a two-week honeymoon with now ex-husband George Santo Pietro. And Gist once again filled in for White later that year when Whiteshe was sick. (White and Pietro split in 2002.)
White’s absence on the upcoming season 41 episodes is even more noteworthy because it comes soon after it was reported that the TV personality is negotiating for a higher salary once longtime host Pat Sajak, 76, leaves the show at the end of the season. According to the reports, White hasn’t been given a raise in 18 years. And while she earns $3 million a year, Sajak currently earns $15 million. She is reportedly asking for $7.5 million per year.
Sajak announced in June that he was retiring as the host of Wheel of Fortune after more than 40 years. He took over the role from Chuck Woolery in 1981.
“Well, the time has come,” Sajak said in a June statement. “I’ve decided that our 41st season, which begins in September, will be my last. It’s been a wonderful ride, and I’ll have more to say in the coming months. Many thanks to you all.”
White has been on the game show almost as long as Sajak, having joined in 1982. She filled in for Sajak as the host in 2019 while he was recovering from emergency surgery due to a blocked intestine.
“I was probably the most nervous — and excited at the same time — to be able to fill in for Pat while he was away,” White exclusively told Us Weekly in December 2019 after Sajak returned. “I have never even thought of hosting the show. Never crossed my mind. But obviously, I stepped in, took one for the team to fill in for him because I’m very familiar with the show after all these years. And our executive producer thought I was the perfect person to do that in his absence. So it was good. It was different. It was fun.”
Shortly after Sajak confirmed his departure, Puck reported in June that the higher-ups at Sony were considering “eliminating” White’s role once Sajak is gone. (Sajak’s final episodes will air in September 2024.)
However, Us reported in June that White’s future is not in jeopardy. “There’s no truth to the rumors that with Pat’s retirement, Wheel of Fortune plans on eliminating Vanna in any way, shape or form,” a source close to production told Us at the time. “They’re currently in negotiations with Vanna.”
Ryan Seacrest — who was named in June as Sajak’s replacement — revealed he wants to work with White when he’s at the helm. “I can’t wait to continue the tradition of spinning the wheel and working alongside the great Vanna White,” Seacrest, 48, said in a June statement.