‘Today’ Producer Defends Matt Lauer From Bad Press

A Today producer isn’t too happy with all of the bad press and nasty allegations being pointed at host Matt Lauer lately.

Recent stories have painted Lauer as a bit of a diva on the set of Today, and the show’s head producer came out Wednesday in defense of the embattled host, reports MSN. A quick recap: Today has recently slipped behind ABC’s Good Morning America as the morning champ over the past several months after 15 years on top. Ratings sank to their lowest after the departure of Lauer’s co-host Ann Curry in June, and many media outlets reported that Lauer had a hand in her dismissal.

Furthermore, strange antics and general awkwardness have plagued the show since Savannah Guthrie took Curry’s seat, with media outlets reporting that the show continues to tank in the face of Lauer’s increasingly unreasonable ego. But the show’s producer is saying that the damning reports on Lauer are completely inaccurate:

“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,” said Jim Bell, executive producer of Today.

Asked if Today‘s flagging views represent a sort of audience punishment for Curry’s dismissal, Bell said that the issue is more complex:

“Any time there is a change, especially in the morning, it takes a while for people to process that change and we’re still going through that,” Bell said. “That’s OK. We understand. We get it. We love our team and we really feel positive about the show we are doing and we are taking the long view here.”

Bell’s comments seem to contradict Today tradition. The show has long taken pride in seamless anchor transitions in the past, as Meredith Vieira replaced Katie Couric, Curry replaced Vieira and Lauer took over for Bryant Gumbel. The show hasn’t experienced such low ratings over an anchor change in the past.

What do you think? Are we getting the whole story on Today? Is Matt Lauer a diva?