CNN boss Jeff Zucker has been forced to address online rumors that disgraced anchor Matt Lauer was making his TV comeback on the news network — telling all employees, “there is absolutely no truth at all in the reports that Matt is coming to CNN.”
The rumors started raging after Page Six exclusively revealed last month that Lauer had come out of seclusion in the Hamptons to attend Zucker’s magic-themed 54th birthday bash at NYC’s McKittrick Hotel, alongside current CNN stars, including Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo. A relaxed-looking Lauer was seen laughing and chatting with Zucker at the celebration.
Zucker became Lauer’s boss at “Today” in 1992 and the pair remained good friends after the TV exec moved up the ladder at NBC, then left to produce Katie Couric’s ill-fated syndicated talk show at ABC, later jumping ship to become the current head of CNN.
While Lauer has been shunned by many in the broadcasting world after he was fired by NBC in November 2017 following allegations of “inappropriate sexual behavior,” he and Zucker have remained close. Both men have recently been through divorces, but it is not believed that Lauer and estranged wife Annette Roque have settled theirs yet.
Days after our story about Lauer’s surprise appearance at Zucker’s birthday bash, other outlets reported that the shamed “Today” star could get a second shot at a broadcast career thanks to his friendship with Zucker. Matt “hopes to be back on TV by the end of the year . . . and it looks like CNN will be his new home,” RadarOnline reported.
Not so fast, said Zucker, who on Wednesday held one of his regular town hall meetings, speaking on an internal broadcast delivered across CNN employee monitors worldwide, and was directly asked about Lauer by a staffer.
One CNN insider said, “Some staff were starting to freak out that Matt Lauer was suddenly about to come back from the dead and show up at CNN’s shiny new Manhattan office at Hudson Yards. In many ways the Matt rumors seemed to make sense, ratings on CNN’s morning show and across prime time have been flagging, and perhaps Matt could be brought back to revive the numbers, and his own career at the same time,” the insider continued, noting that it had also seemed unlikely that Brian Williams could make a TV news comeback after his “lyin’ Brian” scandal that led to his firing as anchor of “NBC Nightly News” in 2015.
But Williams’ current 11 p.m. show on MSNBC, where he also appears as a breaking news anchor, has instead turned out to be a big hit.
The CNN insider added, “The internal talk about Matt was that — if it turned out to be true — some senior female employees would refuse to work with him. There was palpable relief in the office after Jeff confirmed Matt isn’t happening.”
CNN reps didn’t comment.
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