NBC Flogs a Lame Horse

Surely CJR Daily was not alone this week in our perhaps child-like hope that Cruise v. Lauer was, as Dick Cheney would say, “in its last throes.”

Alas, our hopes were dashed this morning, as the producers of NBC’s “Today Show” devised yet another way to revisit “Today” anchor Matt Lauer’s interview last week with actor Tom Cruise — the show’s own unique contribution to what has been a stomach-turning, multi-week, multi-media Cruisefest.

In brief: Cruise, in an interview with Lauer that aired on last Friday’s “Today” show, turned prickly and made comments ranging from the controversial (he spoke dismissively of psychiatry and antidepressants and assorted other medications, including Ritalin) to the arguably less controversial (he called Lauer “glib”). A media frenzy ensued. (Google “Cruise” and “Lauer” and you get 254,000 hits.)

NBC, determined to own the spectacle of its own making, has found ways to reference — and replay — the Lauer/Cruise interview at every turn. Yesterday morning, “Today“‘s Katie Couric interviewed two psychiatrists to get their take on Cruise’s comments (just in case there were any “Today” viewers out there so dunderheaded as to accept Cruise as an expert in psychopharmacology). Last night, footage from the Lauer/Cruise interview popped up on “NBC Nightly News” in a segment that anchor Brian Williams teased as “a story about whether Hollywood could use Cruise control …” And clips from the Lauer/Cruise interview have been thoroughly dissected on NBC’s little brother, MSNBC.

Which brings us back to this morning. In an effort to milk this baby one more time, there was Couric again, querying “two of the best publicists in the business” about how Cruise’s behavior during Lauer’s interview (and beyond) might affect the movie star’s career.

One of the flacks, arguing that Cruise has not irreparably damaged his image, noted that “the American public accepts anything.”

Seems NBC is counting on it.

Liz Cox Barrett

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.