Friends, reading Twitter this morning was so terrible that it made wading through the Fires of Mordor look welcoming by comparison.
One of several news stories that broke was Matt Lauer’s firing due to sexually harassing multiple women, the latest in a flood of such claims against celebrities since the allegations against Harvey Weinstein six weeks ago. In fact, Lauer wasn’t even the only celebrity whose firing we learned about today: he had to share the news cycle with Garrison Keillor, the former host of A Prairie Home Companion.
Recently, @snarke and I have taken to walking first thing in the mornings. We were both frustrated and angry over Lauer’s handling of the Commander-In-Chief Forum last September, in which he hammered Hillary Clinton relentlessly about her email server, but appeared to sidestep numerous campaign scandals involving her opponent, Donald Trump. He also failed to challenge Trump on statements that had repeatedly been proven false, such as the candidate’s claim that he had been opposed to the Iraq War prior to 2004.
Lauer had been selected to moderate by Andy Lack, chairman of NBC News and MSNBC. Other NBC personalities were considered as potential moderators, including Chuck Todd, Andrea Mitchell and Dr. Rachel Maddow. Both campaigns agreed to Lack’s choice (Trump would certainly have refused to participate if Maddow had been chosen). @snarke and I believe that in addition to being Lack’s longtime friend, Lauer was picked because he was considered to be inoffensive, more fluff than substance, and someone who wouldn’t upset either campaign or follow up if a candidate refused to answer, thereby protecting NBC from harsh criticism (which didn’t happen–Lauer was widely lambasted for his poor performance). In that way, I’d said to @snarke, he was essentially the Ryan Seacrest of journalism.
Not so long ago, Internets, Ryan Seacrest was everywhere, omniscient and omnipresent. No one intended for it to happen; we simply woke one day and realized that he’d climbed his way to the upper echelon of media superstars. It’s a position Chris Hardwick occupies these days, but in the early 2000s, Seacrest successfully infiltrated show after show: American Idol, On Air With Ryan Seacrest, New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, Knock Knock Live, American Top 40, the 2007 Emmys, The Million Second Quiz**, Ultimate Revenge, various hosting and production projects for the E! Network, frequently guest-hosting for Larry King Live, and many other appearances.
**You likely don’t remember that one. It aired for a week and a half, clocking in with only 10 episodes.
In 2017, Ryan is the co-host of Live with Kelly and Ryan, having replaced Michael Strahan as Kelly Ripa’s partner. He also continues to host his two radio shows. The On Air With Ryan Seacrest website states:
Ryan is quite simply one of the most influential, well-regarded, and well-known names in Hollywood. He is the quintessential Hollywood insider who always manages to have the biggest scoops and the most sought after access to top events and celebrities. Ryan is known for both his trusted friendship with fellow members of the Hollywood elite and his personal connection with his fans, and for featuring the hottest pop acts, actors, and celebrity icons, but Ryan also prides himself on bridging the gap between celebrity and fan. At the end of the day, Ryan’s a normal guy who relates to his listeners just like any other fan of music, entertainment, and radio!
Friends, not since Napolean’s liger has there been such a magical, mystical creature: one the most influential Hollywood insiders, a man who’s friends with Hollywood elites, but who is also a normal guy just like any other fan! Could anyone but Seacrest could pull off such a startling dichotomy? NAY, I SAY TO YOU, THEY COULD NOT.
I hadn’t heard his name or his signature sign-off (“Seacrest out!”) for years, so I hadn’t been aware of his current hosting responsibilities, nor the fact that last year, the University of Georgia presented him with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Somewhere along the way, Ryan Seacrest had been downgraded in the public consciousness from Chipper Television Demigod to Famous Man Who Still Does Things.
And perhaps that’s why I didn’t know prior to an hour ago that earlier this month, Seacrest was accused of sexual harassment…which brings us back to the Matt Lauer comparison.
We are betrayed, Seacrest. Where are the days when the lights grew dim and you walked us through which contestants would remain to sing “Break My Stride” another day? Where are the moments when you rallied America to embrace the democratic process and vote for the ideals, the highly-marketable pop stars we wanted to see in the world?
If you roam the Internet still, Seacrest, if your tendrils reach this place in search of hosting gigs to reclaim your lit-marquee days: choose to shut down your Lauer, make amends, apologize, and be better. Channel all your years of experience and become a host for consent and respect.