Have you ever been stuck in “rush hour” traffic and wished you could fly to and from work in a helicopter? If so, you have something in common with Matt Lauer because NBC executives are so anxious to keep the host of its Today morning program happy that they're willing to do just that.
In an article on the Page Six website, reporter Emily Smith stated that Lauer -- who in June extended his $20-million-per-year contract through 2016 -- gets a chopper ride to and from the NBC set to his 40-acre horse farm and nearby mansion in the Hamptons a number of times per week but insists that he and his family live "a painfully normal existence."
Smith noted that Lauer's “lucrative” contract is in part a result of the problems that arose in June of 2012, when it was widely reported that Today co-host Ann Curry was going to be replaced. Her final day on the program was June 28, when she bid an emotional farewell to the staff and her morning viewers.
After negotiations with the network, Curry signed a new multi-year contract as NBC News national and international correspondent/anchor and Today anchor at large while Savannah Guthrie took her place in the weekday morning program -- which cost the show 600,000 viewers during her first year in the morning shift.
As part of the recent deal with Lauer was meant to avoid a replay of Curry's contentious departure, Smith stated, NBC agreed to pay for him to ride a helicopter out to the Hamptons, where he has a horse farm in Water Mill and “a nearby mansion, reportedly worth $15 million, in which he lives year-round with his wife, Annette Roque, and their children.”
The reporter noted that a source told her: “NBC News chiefs want to do everything to keep Matt happy. They believe Today has turned a corner, and he is the key to its continuing success. They agreed to pay for his helicopter flights to the Hamptons and back so he can spend more time with his family.”
However, the situation is not as glamorous as it appears since Lauer only flies in a helicopter to and from his mansion three times a week at most, while “other insiders insist his flights there are fewer.”
“But NBC does pick up the tab,” Smith stated. “He’s been spotted hopping on flights on Liberty Helicopters, HeliFlite and Blade from the city.”
Lauer also has a Manhattan apartment, and he told Hamptons magazine that he’s been spending time on the East End his whole life.
He explained to interviewer Hoda Kotb:
I think the image that people have is that it’s all polo fields and cocktail parties. And the fact of the matter -- my experience and Annette’s experience ... is about parent-teacher conferences and Little League and music lessons.
We have a painfully normal existence. … We go to the local drug store, and we walk the dog on the beach … and take pony-riding lessons ... very much small-town America -- it just happens to have a reputation and a name like the Hamptons.
A Today representative told Smith: “On rare occasions, Matt will fly home, but most of the time, you’ll find him stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway with everyone else.”
As NewsBusters has previously reported, Lauer often colors his reporting with liberal views.
In early March, the Today anchor asked Joe Scarborough -- co-host of the Morning Joe program on MSNBC -- why Republicans are more hostile to Barack Obama than Russia since “politics is supposed to end at the water's edge?”
A week later, Lauer whined to billionaire Donald Trump that “you always think that Obama is being weak.”
With the March 31 deadline for people to sign up for ObamaCare approaching, Lauer and his co-host spent most of the morning program discussing rumors that the president might trade in his BlackBerry for a new smart phone.
When House minority leader Nancy Pelosi received a chocolate birthday gift from her Republican counterpart John Boehner, Lauer joked: “If there's ever a need for a food taster, that would be it right there." After a chorus of "ohs" from his fellow hosts, he added: "I'm kidding."
On the other hand, Lauer expressed his displeasure at the idea of using Bill O'Reilly's book Killing Jesus to teach children attending public schools the historical facts regarding the Christian icon.
Still, “nothing succeeds like success,” so it's likely that for the foreseeable future, the Today co-host will continue to ride helicopters to and from his mansion at least once a week. Life sure can be tough for someone working in the network news business.