CNN chief Jeff Zucker was forced to deny rumors that he was bringing beleaguered pal Matt Lauer to the cable news network after the disgraced morning TV man showed up at his Manhattan birthday party last month.
Page Six reports that Zucker was asked point blank during his regular town-hall meeting with CNN’s global staff whether there was any substance to the whispers that Zucker was bringing his friend on board. “There is absolutely no truth at all in the reports that Matt is coming to CNN,” Zucker said, according to Page Six.
Lauer has not been back on air since he was forced out of the top-rated NBC Today morning anchor seat in November 2017, after widespread allegations of sexual misconduct, including that he had a secret button under his desk to lock his office door without getting up.
Zucker worked with Lauer at NBC in the 1990s, and the two have remained close friends ever since. Lauer was seen at Zucker’s 54th birthday party yukking it up with CNN celebrity anchors Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo last month. It was the first time the disgraced anchor had been seen publicly in months.
Page Six reports Radar Online first speculated that Lauer would be moving to CNN to revive the network’s sagging morning-show ratings. Lauer “hopes to be back on TV by the end of the year,” Radar Online reported. “And it looks like CNN will be his new home.”
Citing an unnamed CNN insider source, Page Six reported that some CNN staff had protested the idea of Lauer coming to the network. “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,” Page Six quoted the source as saying. “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 unnamed source also told Page Six that several female CNN staffers said they would refuse to work with Lauer if he joined the news network. “There was palpable relief in the office after Jeff confirmed Matt isn’t happening,” the source said.