Fair or not, the Today Show has fallen hard from their mighty throne and Matt Lauer is getting the blame.
When Ann Curry was sacked from Today, many believe that it was because Lauer wanted her gone.
After years of being the Golden Boy at NBC, Matt Lauer's fortunes have turned 180 degrees and many think he could be soon pushed out at Today.
But before that happens, Lauer is making one last push to rehabilitate his reputation.
How's he doing it?
By talking to softball lobber Howard Kurtz of the Daily Beast.
Kurtz writes that one day last fall, Matt Lauer walked out of his 30 Rock office and took the elevator to the 51st floor to see Steve Burke, the chief executive of NBC Universal.
Lauer was feeling down. Week after week, he was getting pummeled by the press for the sinking fortunes of the Today show. The veteran host was being blamed for the messy departure of Ann Curry and the downward ratings spiral of what had been the iconic program in morning television.
“If you think the show’s better off without me, let me know, and I’ll get out of the way,” Burke recalls Lauer saying.
Burke wouldn’t hear of it. “You’re the best person who’s ever done this,” he said. “We’ll get through this.”
The conversation reflected the depth of the damage sustained by one of television’s most lucrative franchises, which is still struggling to recover as Lauer tries to recast it as warmer, more positive, and less sensational.
“It was a hard time for everybody,” Lauer tells me over a sandwich at his desk, breaking a self-imposed silence about the show’s implosion. “We were getting kicked around a lot. Some of it was self-inflicted and perhaps deserved.”
Self-inflicted? Lauer invokes the way that Curry was abruptly booted from the program last June and replaced by Savannah Guthrie.
“I don’t think the show and the network handled the transition well. You don’t have to be Einstein to know that,” says Lauer.
“It clearly did not help us. We were seen as a family, and we didn’t handle a family matter well.”
That is an understatement. Sources familiar with the process say that Lauer repeatedly tried to convince his bosses to slow things down and give Curry more time before she was pushed into a reduced role.
“When Matt was informed that we had made this decision, his good counsel was to go slow, to take care of Ann, and to do the right things,” says Steve Capus, who stepped down last month as NBC News president. “He was quietly and publicly a supporter of Ann’s throughout the entire process. It is unfair that Matt has shouldered an undue amount of blame for a decision he disagreed with.”
At the outset, though, Lauer would have preferred to anchor with someone else. Before Curry was formally promoted to co-host in 2011, Lauer quietly reached out to an old friend. He asked Katie Couric if she would be willing to return to Today, where they had ruled the time period for nearly a decade.
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