Matt Lauer Talks Katie Couric's Attractiveness, Digs Himself Into Bigger Hole
On Wednesday, The Today Show anchor Matt Lauer was a guest on Howard Stern's Sirius XM radio show, where he spoke to the shock jock about everything from his morning routine to what newspapers he reads on the way to work. It wasn't long before Stern brought up Lauer's relationships with former Today Show co-hosts Meredith Vieira and Katie Couric, and predictably, Lauer's answers were nothing less than cringe-worthy. While his praise for Vieira was only slightly creepy — "I had a relationship with Meredith where I constantly wanted to hug her" — what he said about Couric was much worse.
"I think ... every man in America was attracted [to Katie Couric]," he said. "She's a very attractive woman, not only physically, but her personality ... if she's a 9 or 10 physically, she's a 14 because — I hate to do that — because she's got a great personality. She's fun."
Rating women — classy. Look, I'm sure Lauer didn't mean harm. He seems to genuinely like and respect Couric, saying elsewhere in the interview that "Overall, we are very much the same person. We have very similar senses of humor, and I thought we had a good and easy chemistry." Still, the fact that he felt the need to rate his former co-anchor on her attractiveness is disturbing, and it certainly doesn't help his already damaged PR image.
Over the last few years, Lauer has produced enough uncomfortable soundbites to make Charlie Sheen's publicist cringe. The media has pounced on his sudden dig-self-into-hole mentality; he's been blamed as the man 100 percent in favor of Ann Curry's sudden ousting from The Today Show, and as the driving force behind the once top-rated show's diminishing ratings. A lengthy New York Times Magazine feature on The Today Show's behind-the-scenes drama, rife with criticism of Lauer, only added kindle to the fire. Lauer, once perceived as a likable, trustworthy anchor, has seen that image quickly disappear, and in its place is one of arrogance and callousness.
Still, it's unfair to force Lauer to shoulder all the blame for Today's problems. Even if he was the main man behind Curry's ousting, it wasn't a one-person decision. He may have a large say in how the show is run, but he's not the only NBC employee with a voice. The decision to remove Curry was made by many, and the awkward, heartbreaking way in which she exited the show wasn't Lauer's doing, but the producers'. As for the network's ratings problem, Lauer's decline in popularity surely had some effect, but it's not totally to blame. As any fan of Friday Night Lights or Parks and Rec knows, NBC's ratings are never a sure thing. Lauer's popularity issue is only one small element of the network's much bigger problem.
I'm not saying that Lauer's comments are excusable, or that he deserves to win back the audiences he's undoubtedly driven away. However, he's had enough media backlash for a lifetime, and we shouldn't jump on him unnecessarily. It's fine to criticize him for comments like the ones he said about Couric, but for The Today Show's failures? Back off and give the man some space. There's only so much blame one person can handle.