If you can't beat 'em, join 'em! After months of watching his public image take a steady downward spiral, Matt Lauer stepped up to show the world -- or New York City, at least -- that it's laughing with him, not at him. As host of the April 10 UJA-Federation of New York event celebrating Bloomberg Media Group CEO Andrew Lack, the much-maligned TODAY show anchor poked fun at his own reputation and joked that he's now less popular than a viral infection.
According to the New York Post, Lauer told the audience at the Edison Ballroom in Times Square that he was "a bit surprised to be asked to host this dinner," especially given the bad press he's gotten since New York magazine's cover story last month about his fallout with Ann Curry and the NBC morning show's ratings slump. (The article suggested that Lauer was the reason for Curry's departure, and that the on-set drama between them was "personal.")
"If you've been following the papers lately, you know it's been a bit rough for me," the veteran TV journalist quipped. "These days, I only get asked to host dinners if polio is busy. Yup, I have a lower Q rating than polio right now."
(Q ratings measure the familiarity and appeal of a particular brand, performer, or television program. The higher the Q score, the stronger the fan base. According to the New York Times, Lauer has seen his Q rating plummet from 19 in September 2011 to 9 this past January.)
Later, introducing his former co-anchor Katie Couric, he joked that his reputation wasn't the only thing that had taken a beating recently. "Katie has a way of making headlines," he began. "Who can forget when she was co-host of the TODAY show? She got a colonoscopy on TV. Not to be outdone, two weeks ago, I got one in The New York Times."
Last month, the Times' Brian Stelter suggested that Lauer's longtime job on TODAY might be in jeopardy because of the show's recent struggle to bring ratings up. However, a source told Us Weekly that NBC had no plans to replace him. "Everyone at the show hopes he stays for many years to come," the insider said.