As anyone who even cursorily follows the morning talk show scene knows, Matt Lauer and The Today Show are taking a beating. The ratings have fallen dramatically; Good Morning America is now on top and the gap is widening; and there have been rumors that NBC wants to sh*tcan Lauer, whose public approval ratings have taken a huge dive. The public blames Matt Lauer for the ouster of Ann Curry last summer, and nothing he does seems to change that perception, most because the perception is right.
So what does he do? Howard Kurtz’s profile on The Daily Beast looks and sounds exactly like the kind of publicists driven piece designed to reverse Lauer’s public image. Reading it over, I got the instant sense that Lauer was sitting around with his publicist over the weekend thinking, “Who can we get to write a piece that casts me in a positive light? We need to plant some quotes that shifts the blame away from me and onto everyone else.”
That’s the sense I got from the entire piece: Carefully calculated to allow Lauer to show sympathy for Curry and paint Lauer as the good guy, a victim in all of this. You can read the entire interview here, but here’s a few quotes that demonstrate my point.
“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.”
That quote right there is painfully transparent: It’s clearly planted to make it appear as though Lauer is only thinking of the show, but NBC just won’t let him go because he’s just too good.
“I don’t think the show and the network handled the [Curry to Guthrie] transition well. You don’t have to be Einstein to know that,” says Lauer.
“I don’t think the show and the network handled the transition well”? Notice how he shifts blame away from him and onto the network and the show that had just refused to let him go because he’s the “best person who’s ever done this?” Total douchebag quote, throwing the network under the bus.
“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.”
Uh huh. What a good guy that Lauer is! He took care of Ann! He supported her through the process, and in no way should he be blamed for this. He’s not the bad guy! Lauer is a goddamn saint, people.
Now, Lauer tells me, “we want people to feel good about a portion of their morning, and we got away from that.”
“It’s a much more positive show, a more uplifting show. Much of the darkness is gone, by design.” While Today will always cover hard-news developments, however tragic, says Lauer, “we’re choosing more inspiring stories.”
This particular section of the interview is how the Today show is shifting its town away from harder, more depressing news and toward more tabloid-y, inspiring coverage. The not-so-subtle implication here is that Curry was responsible for all that depressing, hard-hitting news that drove viewers away, and Lauer wants to get away from Curry’s penchant for the tragic and focus on the uplifting stories that that sourpus Curry was incapable of.
In reflecting on the Today stories he most enjoys, Lauer delights in the tale of Adam Greenberg, a baseball player who was hit in the head on the first pitch of his first appearance in 2005 and never returned. After an online petition last year, the Florida Marlins gave him one at-bat, and while Greenberg struck out on three pitches, he was happy when Lauer interviewed him the next day.
“It was about getting back up when you’re knocked down,” says Lauer, who is clearly ready for more at-bats.
I’m sorry. This is just bad, one-sided journalism, highlighting precisely what a piece of puffery it is. That Matt! He’s taken some licks, but God bless him, he just gets right back up and gets back into the fight! What a courageous douche nozzle.
Give me a break.