Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer
Don't blame Matt Lauer if you miss Ann Curry on NBC's Today. The morning show's executive producer Jim Bell said Wednesday it was his decision to eject Curry from the co-anchor chair back in June.
Lauer has rarely been the subject of unfavorable press since he became a star co-anchor on Today in 1997. But Today's ratings have dropped further behind ABC's Good Morning America since Curry was replaced by Savannah Guthrie. Reports with unnamed sources have pointed the finger at him for hastening Curry's departure.
"I think Matt has been unfairly targeted here as somebody who bears some responsibility for the change," Bell told TV Guide Magazine. "I made the change."
Bell acknowledged that the handoff was damaging to the program. Curry left the show in tears, which likely shocked longtime fans who were not aware of any backstage maneuvering. But he believes he made the right decision and that the show has moved on.
"We certainly are aware that it could have gone better," he said. "There are a lot of different ifs and could-haves and would-haves. That's the call I made because it was the best thing for the show. We're moving forward with the full faith and confidence that the show is better, that the people we have on are in the right place."
Viewers are still getting to know Guthrie, said Bell, adding that he's confident she will be a long-term asset to Today. "We feel really great about her," Bell said. "She is somebody who can easily be there for 10, 15, 20 years."
Bell confirmed that Willie Geist, co-host of MSNBC's Morning Joe, would take over Guthrie's previous job as co-anchor of 9 a.m. hour of Today. But no date has been set as to when Geist will join the program.
Bell has also been dealing with reports that he is moving on to devote himself full-time to NBC's Olympics coverage. "I'm here at the Today show," he said. But for how long? "Forever," he said. We don't think he was serious.
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