Television journalist Meredith Vieira has been subbing for Jenna Bush Hager on Today with Hoda and Jenna. Hager is on maternity leave, so Viera is chatting it up with co-host Hoda Kotb, who also just returned from maternity leave, on the Today Show’s fourth hour.
Vieira 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 Vieira had a top-notch rapport, with an evidently solid working relationship and friendship. Vieira 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
Vieira has a long list of credentials in broadcast journalism. According to the Los Angeles Times, Vieira was the youngest correspondent ever hired by CBS’ iconic news magazine program 60 minutes. After two years on the legendary ratings-winning show, Vieira 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, Vieira feels times have changed for the better. “I don’t think you could get away with it today. And also that was Don Hewitt. I mean, he was the king. 60 Minutes was the crown jewel in the network,” Vieira explained. “And so he could probably do no wrong. He was a very, very powerful man. And I made my peace with Don after.”
Vieira was also one of the original panelists on The View, where she stayed for close to a decade beginning in 1997. When asked about the heated debates that frequently occur on the show today, she commented that the format was different during her tenure at the table. “I’m not a yeller. I think discourse in general on television has become that way — a lot of fire, a lot of heat. When I was hosting, it was all about no crosstalk,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “Let somebody have their say and then the next person. But now that’s kind of part of the mishegoss that’s part of the game.”
Her time with Lauer on ‘Today’
During Vieira’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 Vieira when she heard the news of Lauer’s firing. “Matt and I were very close,” Vieira 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,” Vieira 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 she literally woke up to the stunning news, receiving a phone call in the early morning hours. “I was in L.A. [when Lauer was fired in November 2017], 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,” Vieira told the Los Angeles Times. “This was a guy that I thought I knew. I mean, there’s a lot of stuff that goes on in television. There are people who have affairs. This was a different level; this wasn’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 her current relationship with Lauer during her interview with People, but added, “It’s so complicated. The whole thing is just sad. And it’s been rough in a lot of places with a lot of people.”
Vieira currently has plenty going on in her own professional life, filling in on Today and gearing up for her new game show 25 Words or Less, which premieres on September 16.