Kathie Lee Gifford, spaced-out star of the only hour of the Today show people still like, had a bright idea to save Matt Lauer from his current status as morning TV persona non grata: write a letter saying what a great guy he is, get it signed by the show's entire staff, then print it as an ad in USA Today, the second biggest paper in the country. On Monday, Lauer told her not to take out the ad, but he didn't exactly tell Gifford to stay away from the press ... which is why we're hearing about the whole (possibly diabolical) plan today. Yes, in a penthouse somewhere on Manhattan's East Side, Ann Curry is reading the New York Daily News's exclusive, giggling a little giggle at the boondoggle Gifford has left confused viewers, the ever calculating Lauer, and the NBC executives still working public damage control.
Gifford told the Daily News that the letter Lauer didn't want anyone to see — but didn't mind if everyone knew about — was all her idea, based on an indomitable will to right wrongs and a moral compass pointed toward "justice":
No one seemed to be interested in the truth, and that was really frustrating for me because I have a deep sense of injustice about things. I don’t like somebody taking credit for something they had nothing to do with and I certainly don’t like somebody taking blame for something that they’re not responsible for ...
The Daily News says that Lauer was presented with the letter, which contained signatures of "hundreds" of staffers, their positions, and how long they worked with him, on Monday. Then he told Kathie Lee to keep it "in the family." Perhaps because the New York Post keeps calling Lauer an "anchor animal," Gifford apparently thinks the Daily News is family — and shared the letter with the other New York tabloid:
We the people of the Today show who work side by side, day by day, year in and year out with Matt Lauer are tired of unfounded and unrelenting stories by faceless characters regarding his character and reputation ... †No one has coerced us to sign this. With our signatures we stand in support of our colleague and friend.
There's some innate brilliance, or at least weirdness, in starting out a letter defending an embattled network anchor in the same fashion as the U.S. Constitution. But, yeah, Lauer didn't want that out there. And as Lee mentions, the people usually in charge of the endless Lauer spin control — NBC executives — had no idea about this letter-as-advertising scheme, or at least are keeping out of the tabloids today because they didn't think it would help the show's ongoing ratings disaster. "So unbeknownst to anyone higher up at NBC, I just started this thing," Gifford said of her three-week signature journey. Kathie Lee Gifford, of course, could be bluffing about this whole thing, and this whole plot of her bumbling a cheesy effort, then spilling it to the Daily News — well, that might just might be the latest dastardly plan from NBC execs to publicly confuse you into liking Matt Lauer and watching the Today show again. But that would be too cynical....
The question, then, is whether this planted story — however calculating — worked: Do you hate Matt Lauer any less than when you woke up this morning? Is Kathie Lee's petition a better strategy than, say, network executives constantly telling us that it was their choice to fire Curry not his? Does this make up for the Operation Bambi, even though NBC executives swear that Lauer could have taken the fall for her, and now swear that he's trying to make nice ... even though everyone at the Today show kind of hates him? That's up to you, morning show viewer. But if the Curry fallout, the Lauer hate, and/or the ratings nosedive has gotten so palpable that it even made an active, alert partner in Kathie Lee (who is usually oblivious and paid handsomely for it), that might be a sign that Lauer rage is worse than anybody thought.