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As the charismatic and affable co-host of NBC's morning staple, "The Today Show" (1952- ), Matt Lauer became one of America's favorite morning show personalities in the late 1990s, only to watch his reputation and his show's ratings crumble following the messy departure of co-host Ann Curry in 2012. Known for his personable manner, Lauer developed a trusting, but direct interviewing technique which granted him a number of groundbreaking interviews with celebrity and political figures from Tom Cruise and Mark Zuckerberg to George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton. During his "Today" tenure, Lauer reported on stories from across the globe for his annual segment, "Where in the World is Matt Lauer?" logging more than 150,000 travel miles and reporting from more than 25 different locations around the world. Staying on as host of "Today" after Katie Couric departed the show in 2006, Lauer shared co-hosting duties with Meredith Vieira through 2011, while serving as the main anchor for the Olympic Games in 2008, 2010 and 2012. Following Vieira's departure, news anchor Ann Curry took over, but tearfully left in 2012 just months after Lauer signed a long-term contract that paid him $25 million annually. With Curry's...
As the charismatic and affable co-host of NBC's morning staple, "The Today Show" (1952- ), Matt Lauer became one of America's favorite morning show personalities in the late 1990s, only to watch his reputation and his show's ratings crumble following the messy departure of co-host Ann Curry in 2012. Known for his personable manner, Lauer developed a trusting, but direct interviewing technique which granted him a number of groundbreaking interviews with celebrity and political figures from Tom Cruise and Mark Zuckerberg to George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton. During his "Today" tenure, Lauer reported on stories from across the globe for his annual segment, "Where in the World is Matt Lauer?" logging more than 150,000 travel miles and reporting from more than 25 different locations around the world. Staying on as host of "Today" after Katie Couric departed the show in 2006, Lauer shared co-hosting duties with Meredith Vieira through 2011, while serving as the main anchor for the Olympic Games in 2008, 2010 and 2012. Following Vieira's departure, news anchor Ann Curry took over, but tearfully left in 2012 just months after Lauer signed a long-term contract that paid him $25 million annually. With Curry's messy ouster, Lauer was suddenly cast as the villain as "Today" sank in the ratings and lost its top spot to rival "Good Morning America" (ABC, 1975- ), leaving a once sterling reputation in tatters. Regardless of the Curry scandal, Lauer had already solidified his legacy long before as one of the most trusted and popular television personalities in the history of the medium.
Born Matthew Todd Lauer on Dec. 30, 1957 in New York City, NY, Lauer grew up in Greenwich, CT, the son of a Jewish father, Robert Lauer, and Christian mother, Marilyn Kolmer, who split when Lauer was still very young. After high school, he began attending Ohio University as a communications major in 1975. Four credits shy of graduating, however, Lauer left school to pursue a broadcasting internship. In 1979, he began his news career at WOWK-TV in Huntington, WV as a mid-day news producer. The following year, he became an on-air reporter for the station's 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts. Over the next several years, Lauer hosted a number of weekly information and talk programs in Boston, Philadelphia, Providence, and Richmond. He went on to serve as host of "PM Magazine" (1976-1991) from 1980-86 and began working for ESPN in the mid-1980s. Relocating to New York City in 1989, Lauer hosted a daily live interview program for WWOR-TV called "9 Broadcast Plaza" (1987-1991) and left the program in 1991. Out of work for more than a year, Lauer considered leaving television broadcasting altogether before receiving a call from WNBC in New York. Hired by the network in 1992, Lauer's career began to take off. He became co-anchor of the weekday news show "Today in New York" alongside Jane Hanson. In 1993, Lauer also served as co-anchor of NBC's "News Channel 4/Live at Five" (1975- ) news broadcast with Sue Simmons and filled in as a substitute news anchor on no less than the network's jewel in the crown, "The Today Show" (NBC, 1952- ). Impressed by Lauer's on-camera persona, NBC made Lauer the permanent news anchor on "Today" in 1994, succeeding Margaret Larson. While working as news anchor, Lauer often stepped in for hosts Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric. He also sat in for many shows, including as co-host of "Weekend Today" (NBC, 1987- ); as anchor of "NBC News at Sunrise" (1983-1999), sitting in for Ann Curry; and as anchor on the "NBC Nightly News" (1970- ) sitting in for Tom Brokaw.
When Gumbel stepped down as co-host of "Today" in January of 1997, Lauer was asked to take his place. A highlight in Lauer's professional life, the promotion came at a heartbreaking time in his personal life, as his father, Robert, was dying of cancer. Maintaining an upbeat persona on-air despite his father's illness, Lauer remained dedicated to the program. His father passed away in April of 1997, just months after Lauer took over as co-host. His career, however, began to soar. Lauer's innate charisma and his sibling-like chemistry with co-host Couric proved to be a successful pairing for "Today," making it the top-rated morning show among viewers. In his first year on the couch, Lauer was awarded his undergraduate degree from Ohio University. Counting his journalism experience as an independent study, the university awarded Lauer his final credits and asked him to serve as a guest speaker at the commencement ceremony that year. While hosting "Today", Lauer embarked on a series of annual segment reports titled "Where in the World is Matt Lauer?" Broadcasting live from over 25 different locations, Lauer reported from places as varied as the Great Pyramids in Egypt, the Great Wall in China, India's Taj Mahal, and Mount Everest. In 1998, Lauer began anchoring the documentary series "Headliners and Legends" (1998- ) for MSNBC, a biographical documentary program detailing the careers and lives of people of interest.
With a disarming demeanor and a tendency towards giving his guests the benefit of the doubt, Lauer conducted a number of groundbreaking interviews during his tenure on "Today." Landing the first interview with Hillary Rodham Clinton after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, Lauer sat down with the First Lady for an 18-minute-long live conversation in 1998, while Lewinsky herself canceled a string of media appearance following a rather uncomfortable interview with Lauer in 1999. In 2005, Lauer found himself in his most famous on-air exchange when engaging in a heated debate with Tom Cruise that quickly became a pop cultural joke at the actor's expense. Though Cruise was promoting his film "War of the Worlds" (2005), the pair wound up in a white hot debate about Cruise's opposition to psychiatry and medication for treating depression because of his Scientology beliefs. Wherein Cruise accused Lauer of being ignorant of the topic at hand and called the "Today" host "glib" - much to the delight of t-shirt makers who promptly plastered "You're glib, Matt" on apparel nationwide - Lauer stood up to the actor's pronouncements, questioning Cruise's opinions on a medical subject he knew nothing about. Making national headlines, the interview sparked a firestorm of controversy for Cruise concerning his conduct and personal attack on Lauer. The interview only helped Lauer, however, and boosted both his credibility and his ability to take an offensive stance against a celebrity.
In April of 2006, Lauer announced that he had signed a contract with NBC to stay with the "Today" show until 2011, during which time he would share a couch with his new co-host Meredith Vieira, formerly of "The View" (ABC, 1997- ) after Katie Couric's high-profile departure to CBS in 2006. Also that year, Lauer made his sitcom acting debut when he made a cameo appearance as himself in an episode of "Will & Grace" (NBC, 1998-2006) and later made several stops as himself on "30 Rock" (NBC, 2006-2013). He even crossed over to film where he again played himself in the critically derided remake of the cheesy but popular 1970s children's program, "Land of the Lost" (2012), starring Will Ferrell. Meanwhile, during his time co-hosting with Vieira, Lauer headed the morning show's coverage of the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia. While Vieira was his co-host, the ratings soared and the audience loved the twosome's flirtatious banter. Following Vieira's own departure in 2011 to spend more time with her family, Lauer shared hosting duties with "Today" news anchor Ann Curry who was bumped up to the couch, though Vieira did join Lauer in London to cover the events around Prince William and Kate Middleton's royal wedding in 2011 and Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee Celebration in 2012.
In April 2012, Lauer received a new contract that reportedly paid him a whopping $25 million per year, four days a week, to host "Today," a long-term contract that became something of a sticking point later on. Just three months after inking the deal, "Today" made a surprise announcement that Curry was stepping down from the anchor chair after a less than stellar year alongside Lauer. Although there was no chemistry whatsoever with Lauer and her interviews were often painful to watch, she was instantly cast as victim in the scenario. Curry delivered a tearful and widely publicized goodbye during her last broadcast as Lauer sat by her side. The emotional and sometimes awkward departure precipitated a ratings decline where rival morning show "Good Morning America" (ABC, 1975- ) surpassed "Today" in the ratings for the first time in 17 years. With Curry gone and Savannah Guthrie bumped up to co-host, most of the blame was now being placed squarely on Lauer, who was generally regarded as the one responsible for Curry's unceremonious ouster. After a dismal showing at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, where Lauer and his "Today" team were criticized for their banal coverage, Lauer was increasingly being seen by viewers in a harsher light, particularly when a New York magazine article offered a behind-the-scenes look at his contract negotiations from the year before, during which he allegedly told the NBC brass that he simply didn't like Curry and wanted her removed. Right on the heels of that revelation, word began spreading that NBC was looking to replace the growingly unpopular Lauer with another host, with CNN's top anchor Anderson Cooper being floated as a possibility.
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"The first lesson in news reporting is telling the story efficiently. Even though you're allowed to embellish some with television magazine pieces, I'm still making sure the story is told in an efficient manner." --Matt Lauer quoted in "The Soap Show" PR
"I get letters from women, and they say, 'I love your Roman nose.' If I weren't on TV and I walked past that same woman, she'd go, 'did you see the beak on that guy?'" --Lauer quoted in PEOPLE, May 9, 1994
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