Two of the three broadcast TV morning news programs are now minus co-hosts after their male leads got blown out of their chairs over credible claims of sexual misconduct.
Lauer’s firing came a week after CBS News canned Charlie Rose with the revelation of “extremely disturbing and intolerable behavior said to have revolved around his PBS program,” CBS news chief David Rhodes had announced back then.
Wednesday’s dethronement was unusual, in that NBC News got out in front of its Matt Lauer scandal – barely – when a stunned Savannah Guthrie announced the firing at the top of Today, shortly after having been informed herself her co-host got the hook Tuesday night. Guthrie read a statement from NBC News chief Andy Lack, and told viewers she was “heartbroken.”
As the sexual harassment storm has swept through Hollywood over the past several weeks, washing out one high-profile male figure after another, a pattern has emerged in which damning press reports embarrass companies into action. In Lauer’s case, however, the damning reports, from the New York Times and Variety, dropped after Lauer got the hook, though sources report NBC News execs were aware those outlets had been working on pieces for weeks, and publication was imminent.
Reporters Who Cover Television already have moved on to the Morning News Will Never Be The Same phase of their coverage.
This is not unlike the Late Night Will Never Be The Same cycle that emerged shortly after CBS late-night star David Letterman revealed on air in 2009 he’d been victim of an extortion attempt over an affair with a staffer. And, there’s the Evening News Will Never Be The Same phase that followed NBC News’ decision to ship Brian Williams to the Siberia of MSNBC. NBC Nightly News anchor Williams was yanked off the country’s No. 1 rated newscast in early 2015, and eventually re-assigned to cover breaking news on the cable network, after he forgot to confine his making-up of stuff about his journalistic exploits to cocktail party conversation, and began using the material on NBC’s newscast.
But, Williams never was reported to have harassed women, so he’s looking pretty good now – so good, in fact, he’s now on virtually all media outlets’ Matt Lauer Succession Lists.
Pundits say NBC doesn’t really have a strong bench to step in for Lauer because, as one sage told Deadline, “Matt was always so powerful he killed in the cradle” all competitors to his throne.
That said, the Succession List also includes the usual number of people looking for jobs, and those trying to boost their image after a disappointing new-show launch, as well as some credible candidates. Among those mentioned by sources: Ann Curry, Katie Couric,
Megyn Kelly, Hoda Kotb, and Saturday Today host Craig Melvin. Also, Kasie Hunt, who’s still cutting her teeth as a show host on MSNBC’s Kasie DC., and NBC News utility player Willie Geist, who formerly co-hosted the third hour of Today, before he and others
were moved out to make way for Billy Bush. Bush himself got tossed out after the briefest tenure in Today history when WaPo released that old Access Hollywood tape, in which Donald Trump boasted he’s so famous he can grab women “by the p*ssy.”
Some wonder if it wouldn’t be safer to go with an all-female co-host plan, noting Hoda’s rapport with Guthrie on Wednesday when she got recruited at the last minute to sit by Guthrie’s side as she broke the news to Today viewers, at one point holding Guthrie’s hand.
ABC news tried that from mid-2006 to late 2009, when Robin Roberts and Diane Sawyer co-hosted Good Morning America. But, when
Sawyer announced she was replacing her former GMA co-host Charlie Gibson on ABC’s evening newscast, division reps told reporters it specifically wanted to return the show to its original man/woman co-anchor format, ending that experiment.
Within hours of the news breaking, Matt Lauer coverage also entered the Outraged Misinformation Spewing Phase. Among several incidents across the landscape, Vox Media’s Liz Plank, on CNN, was exercised about NBC News sticking with Lauer all these years while Katie Couric got pushed out of Today. Fortunately for CNN viewers, former Today show regular Jamie Gangel was on hand as CNN Special Correspondent, and stepped in with some refreshing actual reporting, informing Plank that Couric left Today to go anchor CBS’s evening newscast which, she explained patiently to Plank, was considered a “dream job” back then.
Plank also reminded viewers Couric had complained, while she was Lauer’s co-host, that he would pinch her bottom. Gangel, in turn, taught Plank that Couric’s remark was construed by many back then to have been a joke, because, in pre-millennial America, that sort of thing used to be okay for a woman to say in jest.