Jim Bell, the executive producer of "Today," tried to bat down some of the criticism of Matt Lauer in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
Bell spoke out about Willie Geist's promotion to the co-host of the 9 a.m. hour and some not-so-positive developments, including NBC's controversial 9/11 coverage decision and Ann Curry's messy departure from the show. When asked if her exit "dinged" Lauer's reputation, he agreed that it did and the transition "did not go quite as well" as he had hoped.
"And Matt, I need to say for the record, really should not bear any of the blame for that," he continued. "I’m the executive producer of the show. He’s not. He’s the public face of the show. So he’s taken some of this. But it has been wrong. And that fact should be corrected."
Bell's remarks come days after another report that claimed Lauer's popularity has taken a beating since Curry was forced to leave the show. The New York Daily News cited the 25% drop in Lauer's Q Score — a widely used measure of a television figure's popularity. Lauer reacted to the story, joking to the newspaper, "Is it only 25 percent? Because it actually feels much worse."
Bell also claimed complete responsibility for Curry's ouster, telling the New York Times' Bill Carter that it “was absolutely my call.” Media reporter Brian Stelter tweeted the story, writing, "Bell reached out to several news outlets to defend Lauer."