Jim Bell says it's his call, not Lauer's, to replace Curry on the NBC morning program, and calls story that claims Lauer's difficult to work with 'is patently false.'
Matt Lauer shouldn't be blamed for Ann Curry's ouster, so Jim Bell said. Speaking in defense of the male anchor, the "Today" show executive producer took the blame for the recent shake-up. "[Lauer] is the host and does not have management responsibility. It was not his call. That was my call," he told New York Times.
"And Matt, I need to say for the record, really should not bear any of the blame for that," Bell said in another interview with The Hollywood Reporter. "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."
Having nothing but good words for Lauer, Bell denied other reports that portrayed the former ESPN reporter in a negative way. "Matt has been the heart and soul of the show for a long, long time, and any of the stuff out that has portrayed him in an unflattering light as being difficult to work with is patently false and it's been tough to deal with," he claimed.
While he didn't see the appointment of Curry as Meredith Vieira's successor a mistake, Bell believed Curry's now "in the role she is naturally suited for." As for the decision to elect Savannah Guthrie as Lauer's new partner, he claimed it's part of a "long view" plan to regain the top ratings position that has been claimed by "Good Morning America" lately.
When asked about recent reports that "Today" faced budget cuts, Bell stated, "There is no plan for any cutbacks of layoffs for any of the staff." He went on saying that any rumors suggesting Lauer's salary would be cut "could not be more wrong."
On Willie Geist's promotion to the 9 A.M., Bell stressed that it didn't necessarily mean Geist was the heir apparent for Lauer. Meanwhile, Guthrie "will continue to pop up in the 9 as she has" and they're still sorting out her schedule.