‘Today’ Fans Still Out in Force, Despite Matt Lauer Scandal

Matt Lauer Savannah Guthrie

Today” may have been thrown into disarray after the stunning firing of co-anchor Matt Lauer yesterday, but fans of the NBC morning program who gathered outside of the show’s Rockefeller Center stages on Thursday morning insisted that the co-anchor’s sexual harassment scandal won’t make them change the channel.

“I’ll still watch,” said Lisa Brown of St. Louis, Mo., as she held a pink sign that read “St. Louis Strong.”

“Honestly, I haven’t heard much about it,” said Cindy Ford of Milan, Tenn. “I’ve been traveling.”

“We don’t care,” said a woman from Fayetteville, Ark., who declined to give her name. “We’re here with our kids and grandkids to see ‘Today.'”

All told, a couple of hundred people resisted the urge to hit snooze on their alarm clocks, outfitted themselves in scarves, coats, and winter hats (one of which featured colored Christmas lights), and congregated on the plaza outside of NBC’s midtown Manhattan studio in the hopes of being caught on camera.

There was a festive air as the sun started to rise. People carried baby pictures or bedazzled signs with messages that read “My Sweet Sixteen,” “It’s My 31st Birthday,” and, most provocatively, “Grandma Goes to New York, Party at Grandpa’s.” A Golden Krust truck (#TrustTheKrust) handed out complimentary coffee, hot chocolate, and bagels. The crowd was largely comprised of middle-aged women, though there was one baby stroller and a few parents with young children. A police officer said the crowd size was standard for a week day, if not slightly larger.

Things may have looked the same as usual outside of NBC, but inside, the network is still reeling from the bombshell firing. After all, Lauer was very much the face of “Today,” having been a regular on the program for more than two decades. Despite his pivotal role on the hugely profitable show, NBC fired the newsman after receiving a complaint from a female colleague that accused Lauer of inappropriate sexual behavior during the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Variety later published a report that documented multiple allegations from colleagues ranging from inappropriate jokes to the sexual propositioning of underlings. Hoda Kotb is filling in for Lauer on Thursday morning. The “Today” show team includes Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker, Carson Daly, and Dylan Dreyer.

Fans made it clear that the allegations had altered their feelings about Lauer, long seen as America’s dad, but they retained their loyalty to a program that starts the day off with a mixture of political and world news and a healthy dollop of fashion tips and better barbecuing pointers.

“I was really heartbroken because I’ve been a fan of the ‘Today’ show for a long time,” said Betsy Hopson, a visitor from Alabama who came out with five other family members, including her daughter Logan, to celebrate Logan’s 16th birthday. “I watch ‘Today’ every morning getting ready for work. I was really, really sad, but it didn’t affect my plan to come here this morning, because I still love ‘Today.'”

“I still love the show, because I still love Savannah and everybody else,” said Jenna Frey of Breese, Ill., who was there to celebrate her 31st birthday with her mother, Nancy Crake.

“I was shocked about it,” said Sherry Moore, in town from Tampa, Fla., with her husband Don. “And a little ticked off that they did it the day before we came out. But you know, I’ve worked in HR for 25 years. These things happen. You don’t expect them to, but they have to be dealt with.”

Some members of the early morning crowd said Lauer was never a major factor in their decision to tune in to “Today” or to make the trek to the studio plaza.

“I’m mostly here for Savannah and Dylan,” joked Steve Pasche of Missouri.