Following NBC's dismissal of Today Show host Matt Lauer due to allegations of sexual misconduct, the morning show saw a 14% bump in ratings. On Tuesday, Deadline reported that this streak has continued as Today tops ratings (beating out competitors like Good Morning America and CBS This Morning) for the third week in a row. It's almost as if it doesn't have anything to do with luck at all.
"Frankly, I'm not surprised at all that the Today Show ratings have improved, because I always thought [Lauer] was the weakest host," Liesel Burks, a 26-year-old lawyer, told Refinery29. "Today Show's greatest strength has been the high-caliber female journalists that the show has promoted over the years, and I wish they had been able to shine more."
Burks isn't the only woman who's found herself with renewed interest in the program following Lauer's departure. In fact, all of the women I spoke to, most longtime-viewers of the show, seemed to have previously tuned in despite him. Many lost respect for the journalist after co-host Ann Curry was forced out of her role in order to keep Lauer at the network, something that's particularly shameful now in light of the allegations.
"Even from the beginning I always thought that Katie Couric and Ann Curry were the two strongest anchors on the show," Burks added. "I found Matt to be abrasive, especially during interviews, and I hated that he often interrupted women on the show."
Barb Clark, a 52-year-old executive secretary for a non-profit organization in Dayton, Ohio, felt similarly, and said the Ann Curry was an instance of Lauer showing his "true colors."
"I just felt he was always disingenuous and a bit smarmy," Clark said. "A specific example that I can think of was the Trump/Clinton debate. He was much tougher on Clinton than Trump. Overall, he didn't seem to really press male interviewees when he should have, but didn't seem to have a problem doing that with female interviewees."
Cut to Wednesday, when Savannah Guthrie interviewed Paul Ryan about the tax plan. The clip of the interview gained traction on Twitter due to Guthrie's persistence.
It's immediately clear that the women who were secondary to Lauer during his tenure have been capable of filling his shoes for some time. Keeping them in the shadows is what put New Jersey author Joanna Shupe off the show long before the allegations surfaced, and it's a shame that that's what was necessary to make this shift.
"There seemed to be a deference to Matt Lauer during the broadcast that didn't sit well with me," she said. "Why were the women shuffled in and out every few years while the men remained? That said to me that the women were disposable, replaceable, and the men were not."
Of course, there are people who are now paying closer attention thanks to the scandal — "rubbernecking," as D.C. radio host Shannon Fisher called it. While Fisher had tuned in about twice a week before the scandal, what she saw following the controversy has inspired her, and apparently 14% more of viewing America, to stick around.
"Lo and behold, everyone seemed much more chipper," she said. "I would have been watching NBC in the morning every morning for years if it had been this crew."
While hosts like Guthrie's true talent is finally being allowed to shine in Lauer's wake, NBC has yet to release an official statement about how the network will be staffing the Today Show going forward. Refinery29 has reached out for comment.
Refinery29 has reached out to NBC for comment.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
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