NBC News has reportedly contacted Anderson Cooper about joining the network — that much seems true. The reports also say that Cooper could replace long-time “Today” anchor Matt Lauer, and there things get a little murky.
The network approached Cooper earlier this month, according to accounts Deadline (which first reported the news), The New York Times and the Hollywood Reporter. NBC has acknowledged as much but denies that it wants Cooper to replace Lauer.
“NBC News has many exploratory talks with talent inside and outside of the network, but to read anything specific into that is presumptuous,” a network executive tells the Times (THR has a similar quote). On the record, NBC News spokeswoman Alexandra Wallace says in a statement, “As we’ve said before, Matt Lauer is the best in the business. We want him in the ‘Today’ show anchor chair for many years to come. We are not considering replacing Matt Lauer.”
Lauer is under contract with NBC through 2015. Cooper’s contract with CNN, however, is up in the fall, so another network contacting him is perhaps not much of a surprise — but the notion of replacing Lauer on “Today” is.
Deadline further reports that Lauer called Cooper to “express his disapproval” over the move, although sources close to both men deny that happened. Whether Cooper would actually be interested in hosting “Today” isn’t clear from any of the reports — the Times says he “may have told NBC he was not interested.”
Lauer’s image has taken a hit this week in the wake of a New York magazine story that detailed the behind-the-scenes drama surrounding former “Today” anchor Ann Curry‘s ouster last year and his role in the shakeup. The story also says he considered a move to join his former co-host Katie Couric at ABC.
Meanwhile, ABC’s “Good Morning America” has sustained the morning-show ratings lead it grabbed almost a year ago after ending “Today’s” 16-year winning streak.