For a show that has emerged over the years as a top stop for celebrities trying to get past controversy, “Today” demonstrated Saturday that even it can be pretty ham-handed in its handling of these kind of interviews.
Josh Ostrovsky, aka the Fat Jew, made an appearance less than a week after being bombarded by criticism from comedians on social media about pilfering content on his hugely popular Instagram account. The segment also comes days after giving an interview to Vulture in which he confronted those accusations head on.
But NBC News and Ostrovsky seemed to have moved beyond the apology-tour phase of his efforts to capitalize on the controversy and well into a victory lap via a jovial interview with “Weekend Today” correspondent Sheinelle Jones that featured them hanging out at a spa together.
It’s a stark contrast from how he was handled at Vulture, where the controversy is appropriately front and center, though even that publication should have challenged his ridiculous assertions that he didn’t realize what he was doing was wrong.
“Today,” on the other hand, goes totally tone deaf. The sole question asked about attribution is sandwiched awkwardly in the middle of the segment as if it’s an afterthought between shots of Ostrovsky and the correspondent hanging out at a day spa like they were gal pals on “The Real Housewives,” plugging his line of wines and upcoming book. The promotion-to-contrition ratio is just way off.
Ostrovsky sounded a less repentant note in his explanation of his actions. “The Internet is like a giant Jacuzzi, you know what I mean?” he told Jones. “There’s all kinds of germs, like, we’re sharing everything… but if they hit me up like, ‘That’s my cat,’ I’m gonna make it right.”
To top it off, Jones practically pardons Ostrovsky with a comment after the segment airs that suggests she is even more ignorant of the gravity of his sins than he is. “He’s totally smart, he totally gets it, he just likes to have fun,” Jones explained.
Yes, “Today” is not “60 Minutes” and Ostrovsky is not guilt of war crimes. But even a small-market local-news morning show would have enough sense to inject even a modicum of sobriety into the segment just days after the guy got into trouble.
Implicit in Today’s kid-glove handling of Ostrovsky is the notion that the wrongdoing he has copped to is much ado about nothing. It’s like NBC is just smart enough to capitalize on the recent notoriety of Ostrovsky, yet dumb enough to treat it like it’s no big deal.