Television journalist Meredith Viera has been subbingfor Jenna Bush Hager on Today with Hoda and Jenna. Hager is onmaternity leave, so Viera is chatting it up with co-hostHoda Kotb, who also just returned from maternity leave, on the TodayShow’s fourth hour.
Viera is no stranger to the morning news program. She co-anchored with then-lead host Matt Lauer from 2006 through 2011, replacing host Katie Couric. Lauer and Viera had a top-notch rapport, with an evidently solid working relationship and friendship. Viera has recently commented on her current status with Lauer, who was fired from the show in 2017 due to sexual misconduct allegations.
A seasoned journalist
Viera has a long list of credentials in broadcast journalism. According to the Los Angeles Times, Viera was the youngest correspondent ever hired by CBS’ iconic news magazine program 60 minutes. After two years on the legendary ratings-winning show, Viera left to have her second child, having been let go since then-executive producer Don Hewitt would not allow her to work part-time.
Looking back, Viera feels times have changed for the better.“I don’t think you could get away with it today. And also thatwas Don Hewitt. I mean, he was the king. 60 Minutes was the crown jewelin the network,” Viera explained. “And so he could probably do no wrong. He wasa very, very powerful man. And I made my peace with Don after.”
Viera was also one of the original panelists on TheView, where she stayed for close to a decade beginning in 1997. When asked aboutthe heated debates that frequently occur on the show today, she commented thatthe format was different during her tenure at the table. “I’m not a yeller. Ithink discourse in general on television has become that way — a lot of fire, alot of heat. When I was hosting, it was all about no crosstalk,” she told theLos Angeles Times. “Let somebody have their say and then the next person. Butnow that’s kind of part of the mishegoss that’s part of thegame.”
Her time with Lauer on ‘Today’
During Viera’s time on the Today Show, she and Lauer had symbiotic partnership mastering their on-air rapport from hard news to chummy banter. Maybe that’s why it came as such a “gut punch” to Viera when she heard the news of Lauer’s firing. “Matt and I were very close,” Viera said, according to People. “He was very kind to me. We both have similar senses of humor. We’re both sarcastic.”
She spoke of the atmosphere on the set, commenting that though the language could get a bit raucous, she never took their banter to mean anything suspect. “There was totally joking around. But I never took it as anything. We were like brother and sister,” Viera said. “If somebody were a fly on the wall in any newsroom, they’d be shocked by the language, and by the gallows’ humor. You made a joke because otherwise you’d implode when you’re covering something… you could take [that moment] and go, ‘Look, now can’t you see what you were dealing with?’ But I didn’t feel that at all.”
Her relationship with Lauer now
The journalist said sheliterally woke up to the stunning news, receiving a phone call in the earlymorning hours. “I was in L.A. [when Lauer was fired in November2017], and my phone started going crazy at 4 in the morning. And I’m thinking,what the hell’s going on? I found out in the middle of my night,”Viera told the Los Angeles Times. “This was aguy that I thought I knew. I mean, there’s a lot of stuff that goes on intelevision. There are people who have affairs. This was a different level; thiswasn’t that.”
Last month, when asked if she remained friends with Lauer or has spoken to him, she replied, “I haven’t.”
She wouldn’t define hercurrent relationship with Lauer during her interview with People, but added, “It’sso complicated. The whole thing is just sad. And it’s been rough in a lot ofplaces with a lot of people.”
Viera currently has plenty going on in her own professionallife, filling in on Today and gearing up for her new game show 25Words or Less, which premieres on September 16.
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