Lauer’s “Tone” Landed Bush

Last week, Gary “Baba Booey” Dell’Abate and Buddy “The Cake Boss” Valastro talked about their new books (They Call Me Baba Booey and Cake Boss, respectively) with Today’s Matt Lauer. This week, former President George W. Bush will talk about his new book, Decision Points, with Lauer. Bush will do this tonight, pre-taped, on NBC in prime time, and again live on Wednesday morning on Today (“in part to react to the initial interviews,” as the New York Times has it.)

Per the Times, Today’s executive producer, Jim Bell

pointedly called [tonight’s] special ‘a conversation with President Bush about his book,’ not just his presidency.” Many tough questions are asked, and the word “torture” is used, Mr. Bell emphasized, but it comes down to tone.

Dana Perino, a former Bush White House press secretary who is working on the rollout of Bush’s book, told the Times that “tone was an important consideration for the TV book tour,” noting that Bush is “not interested in having a debate about the policies.”

The Times reports that other networks jockeyed to be the first stop on Bush’s book tour but that Lauer’s “tone” and NBC News’s overall “package” won the day. Indeed, Lauer “is now perched at or near the top of the A-list interview hierarchy,” TV execs (presumably not just at NBC News) told the Times, “along with Ms. Winfrey and the correspondents on 60 Minutes” and, “some say The View, Diane Sawyer, Barbara Walters and Katie Couric all also belong in the same breath.” (Why is Brian Williams the only nightly network news anchor not mentioned as among “the A-list interview hierarchy?” Is he in a—higher-gravitas—category all his own?)

So, you can wait and watch tonight, per the Times, “the biggest showcase in the 30-year career of Mr. Lauer.” Or, you can save time and Google up some highlights right now. (Way to isolate the key bits, Daily Mail.)

Bush’s next stops this week? It is a book tour that Baba Booey and the Cake Boss could only dream of: Winfrey, Limbaugh, Leno, Hannity, O’Reilly, Van Susteren, plus visits to CNN and CBS News.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.