While his popularity continues to plummet and his likability currently sits equal to that of visiting the dentist for a root canal, embattled “Today” anchor Matt Lauer did feel some love this week thanks to fellow NBC staffer Kathie Lee Gifford.
Gifford has revealed she was so fed up with criticism of Lauer that she decided to show him some support in a full-page newspaper ad — and got the whole “Today” cast and crew to sign it.
She intended to publish the letter this week in USA Today, but when she presented it to Lauer on Monday, although touched, he asked her to keep it “in the family” and not buy an ad.
Gifford was apparently especially incensed by reporters who used “unnamed sources” to slam Lauer and blame him for former co-host Ann Curry’s ouster last June, she told The New York Daily News.
“We read the same newspapers and saw all the media reports, and it was frustrating for all of us watching it day to day and feeling a little helpless,” Gifford said. “No one seemed to be interested in the truth, and that was really frustrating for me because I have a deep sense of injustice about things. I don’t like somebody taking credit for something they had nothing to do with and I certainly don’t like somebody taking blame for something that they’re not responsible for,” she said.
In three weeks, Gifford collected hundreds of signatures from “Today” staffers including Lauer’s co-host, Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker, Willie Geist and Hoda Kotb.
The letter read: “We the people of the ‘Today’ show who work side by side, day by day, year in and year out with Matt Lauer are tired of unfounded and unrelenting stories by faceless characters regarding his character and reputation. No one has coerced us to sign this. With our signatures we stand in support of our colleague and friend.”
One notable name missing from the list of supporters was Ann Curry.
But Gifford explained that Curry’s lack of signature was due to her not seeing her, not a resistance to sign on Curry’s behalf.
“She’s just not part of (the show) day-in and day-out anymore. This wasn’t about Ann, this is about our love and support for a different member of our family,” she said.
Gifford said she was shaken by the ongoing coverage blasting Lauer because “I’ve been through it.”
“I also knew what he must’ve been going through internally,” she said.
Do you think since the Curry fiasco we have been too hard on Lauer?
Her humiliating axing from the ”Today” led fans rushing to her defence and making Matt Lauer public enemy number one.
While she may have handled her public ousting with grace, inside Ann Curry was shaken to the core and rattled by insecurities after months of being taunted by staff.
According to an explosive excerpt from Brian Stelter’s new book on the morning show wars, Curry, today, still remains “profoundly hurt and humiliated” by her dismissal and the months leading up to her exit.
“She told friends that her final months were a form of professional torture,” Stelter writes.
In a portion of the book that ran in The New York Times on Thursday, Stelter reveals that Curry, who was forced to leave the show less than a year after she began as co-host, felt bullied and belittled by the “Today” crew.
“Curry felt that the boys’ club atmosphere behind the scenes at ‘Today’ undermined her from the start,” Stelter wrote.
He goes on to shed some insight into how the 56-year-old was taunted relentlessly over everything from her wardrobe choice to her worst on-air mistakes.
An unidentified “Today” staffer told Stelter that “a lot of time in the control room was spent making fun of Ann’s outfit choices or just generally messing with her.”
The show’s executive producer, Jim Bell, supposedly took to teasing Curry, Stelter reports, claiming that Bell “commissioned a blooper reel of Curry’s worst on-air mistakes.”
Another unnamed producer claimed that Bell once called staff members into his office to show a mistake Curry made while talking on-air with a local station. (Bell denied both incidents.)
Prior to Curry’s teary June 2012 send-off, several boxes of her personal belongings went missing from her office and “ended up in a coat closet, as if she had already been booted off the premises,” Stelter writes.
The plan to remove Curry from the show, one source told Stelter, was called “Operation Bambi,” after one colleague likened firing Curry to “killing Bambi.” (Bell also denied using the term “Operation Bambi.”)
Co-host Matt Lauer wasn’t a fan of Curry’s either. According to the excerpt, Lauer allegedly told a production assistant about Curry, “I can’t believe I am sitting next to this woman.”
Since her departure, Stelter reports that Curry has been keeping to herself at her Connecticut home.
“She still often woke before dawn as if she were about to go on the air,” he wrote. “Some mornings, she cried as she read e-mail and Twitter messages from fans.”
Stelter’s book on the subject, “Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV,” comes out April 23.
So bitter is the rivalry between morning shows “Today” and “Good Morning America” that NBC’s Ann Curry was forbidden from publicly reaching out to ABC’s Robin Roberts after the 52-year-old was diagnosed with bone marrow disease in June 2012.
According to a New York Magazine expose by reporter Joe Hagan, which details Curry’s ousting, tensions reached an all-time high as execs begun to phase the co-anchor out of the ”Today” show.
“Ann Curry was gone but not gone, which created a situation of spectacular awkwardness,” Hagan writes. “Any trust that had existed between Curry and Today was shattered. When Robin Roberts left Good Morning America a month later to get treatment for MDS, Curry asked NBC if she could tweet a note of sympathy for the ABC co-host. NBC said no, afraid she was trying to aid the enemy.”
Hagan also reveals that Lauer, now the target of hate since Curry’s departure, had been in talks with ABC to develop a new daytime talk show with his former co-anchor Katie Couric. ABC executives were said to be charmed by Lauer and excited about a potential partnership, but according to Hagan, the 55-year-old “surprised them all by calling and saying thanks but no thanks.”
Lauer then extended his contract with NBC, pocketing $25 million a year, and said he “cared about the show and staff.”
And despite “GMA” now leading the ratings war, Lauer is confident ”Today” will bounce back.
“I’m confident that the show we’re doing today is the one that will allow us to dig ourselves out of the hole,” he said.
That is, if he is around long enough to see it — there are reports he will not have his contract renewed when it is expires in 2014.
However, NBC News executive Alex Wallace, who oversees the show, recently dismissed the speculation, telling the New York Times: ”We are aware of all the ridiculous rumors and gossip. We would like Matt Lauer to be in the chair as long as he would like to be. We hope that’s for many years to come.”
Every other second week, a report surfaces which suggests that Matt Lauer will be axed from his co-hosting gig on the “Today” show. But when the New York Times, reports it, you can pretty much say “bye, bye Matt!”
The newspaper reports that the embattled television veteran won’t have his $25 million a year contract renewed when it expires in 2014.
The 55-year has seen his popularity plunge following the Ann Curry fiasco and according to the Times, during a meeting to discuss the falling ratings of the morning news program, staffers were told, “what matters most is the anchor connection to the audience; what we need to work on is that connection.” [Lauer was not at that meeting.]
“What they meant was Matt. But no one would say it,” one senior staff member told the paper.
The mention of the word “connection.” again caused some staffers to laugh.
Employees who spoke to the Times all agreed that Lauer’s contract will not be renewed and felt a younger face should be brought in to breathe fresh air into the ratings-challenged morning show.
Willie Geist is seen as a possible replacement
Among those who are being lined up to possibly replace Lauer are Willie Geist, 37, and David Gregory, 42, according to the report.
The meeting took place shortly after “Today” lost its number one spot to ABC’s “Good Morning America”.
For 16 years “Today” was the highest rated morning show, and currently, “GMA” has around 800,000 more viewers each day.
Lauer’s dwindling popularity was also highlighted in his Q Score, which slumped from 19 in September last year to nine in January. [The Q Score is the TV industry measure of popularity.]
For the first time “GMA” host George Stephanopoulos now has a higher score.
Lauer recently went on the offensive amid an endless barrage of negativity publicity in the wake of Ann Curry’s firing.
In an interview with the Daily Beast, Lauer admitted that the network didn’t handle the “transition” from Curry to Savannah Guthrie well and that a more tabloid content driven route caused viewers to switch off.
However, many felt it was too little too late.
Lauer has been in the co-anchor chair since 1997.
The morning show has struggled since the firing of Curry
He has faced a torrent of bad press following the unceremonious ousting of Ann Curry last year.
And there has been endless speculation regarding Matt Lauer’s long-term future with the “Today” show.
Now Lauer is breaking his silence in an exclusive interview with the Daily Beast, in which he admits that the backlash is understandable given the way the NBC network handled Curry’s departure.
“It was a hard time for everybody,” he admitted frankly. ”We were getting kicked around a lot. Some of it was self-inflicted and perhaps deserved.”
“I don’t think the show and the network handled the transition well. You don’t have to be Einstein to know that,” Lauer told the site.
“It clearly did not help us. We were seen as a family, and we didn’t handle a family matter well.”
Lauer, who has a $20 million a year salary, also blames the ratings slide on the content the morning show was airing, saying that producers got “drunk” on tabloid stories and that they “did some damage in terms of trust with our viewers”.
“The show got a little dour and depressing and dark,” he said. “We want people to feel good about a portion of their morning, and we got away from that.”
“GMA” got a ratings boost from Robin Roberts’ return
For the week of February 25, when Robin Roberts returned from her bone-marrow transplant, GMA got 5.8m viewers – compared to just 4.8m for Today.
With morale at an all-time low, Lauer admits he even offered to quit last fall when ABC’s “Good Morning America,” beat out “Today,” for the first time in 16 years.
He reportedly approached Steve Burke, the chief executive of NBC Universal, and said: “If you think the show’s better off without me, let me know, and I’ll get out of the way”.
But Burke rebuffed him and said: “You’re the best person who’s ever done this. We’ll get through this.”
And in another moment of desperation, Lauer tried to lure Katie Couric back to the morning show, which she co-anchored with Lauer for 15 years until 2006, but negotiations did not work out.
Despite all the backlash and criticism, Lauer still admitted he is still the “luckiest guy I know.”
He said: “I’m not going to whine or get depressed. Who’s going to feel sorry for me? Nobody..
“In some ways being No. 2 in the ratings is a real shot in the arm, a kick in the pants.
“It makes you hungrier … I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have a fire lit under your ass.”
The news that he approached Couric, who is now with rival ABC, will come as a blow for Savannah Guthrie who replaced Curry as Today co-anchor — as essentially he has just admitted that she was his second choice.
The rumblings of replacing Matt Lauer are getting stronger and stronger as the “Today” show’s ratings continue to tumble.
In fact, the once mighty morning show has slipped into third place in New York, a former NBC executive tells the NY Daily News.
“Today,” which had held the top spot in mornings for the past 16 years, is now behind both “Good Morning America” and Fox 5’s morning show “Good Day New York”.
Now, the paper’s source reveals that replacing Lauer, who has annual $25 million salary, is seriously being consider.
“They are rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. They can shift things around, but it’s not helping,” says the source.
“Their short-term solution is looking for new experts to replace some of the familiar faces that have been on the show forever. What they also need to do is hire someone to shake up everything and have the discussion about what to do with Matt.”
Morale at “Today” has been at an all-time low since the unceremonious firing of Lauer’s co-host, Ann Curry.
And it didn’t help that as “GMA” numbers got a boost from Robin Roberts’ return on Feb. 20, Lauer was on vacation.
“On top of everything, Matt took a vacation during sweeps. It doesn’t seem to matter if he’s around or not,” adds the source.
We want to hear your thoughts, so be sure to vote in our poll below. We will publish the results on Monday morning during the “Today” show.
She may have been unceremoniously fired from “Today” in June, but Ann Curry is coming out on top.
While her ‘#26 Acts of Kindness’ has gone from a simple idea to a full-fledged movement online, endearing her more to the public than ever before, Matt Lauer is increasingly on the end of hateful tirades.
According to TMZ, Lauer is “freaked out” because people have been screaming at him on the streets in NYC and pointing the finger of blame at Curry’s departure from the morning show, squarely at him.
A source told the website that he feels abused with people screaming things such as, “You’re a bad guy,” and “You got Ann fired. Does that make you happy?”
“It’s driving him crazy,” the NBC source added. “He’s so unhappy.”
We think a $25 million salary should ease some of Lauer’s unhappiness.
It was once the highest rated morning show in America but “Today” has fallen into second place this year behind archrival “Good Morning America” in the cutthroat ratings race.
Much of the fall has been attributed to the appalling handling of Ann Curry’s firing as co-host, which was said to be orchestrated, in part, by Matt Lauer.
Despite putting Savannah Guthrie in Curry’s place, it has done little to attract more viewers. Then there was the news this week that executive producer Jim Bell, who has been running “Today” since 2005, had been ousted too.
Now, TV industry insiders are telling the New York Daily News that no amount of NBC executive reshuffling can save the embattled “Today” show — until its longtime co-host throws in the towel.
“This problem is not going to go away until Matt Lauer does,” a prominent former NBC News exec told the Daily News on Tuesday. “He’s great, but fairly or unfairly, his brand is damaged.”
The sentiment comes just as a new production team is poised to take over “Today”.
Alexandra Wallace, 46, a TV news veteran with morning show experience and a senior vice president at NBC News, will take charge of the show in the near future.
But insiders doubt this will do little to revive the embattled show.
“Nothing’s changed here,” an industry competitor said of Wallace, a mother of two young children.
“She was put in charge of (Brian Williams’ prime-time magazine) ‘Rock Center’ just earlier this year, and they’re still rock bottom in prime time.” As a top executive at NBC News, she has also had a hand in the slow-motion “Today” ratings collapse.
“They just keep throwing layers of management on this problem,” another competitor said.
Let’s not forget, that Lauer, 52, reportedly rakes in a whopping $25 million-a year to co-host the show.