He’s been called an “anchor animal” behind the scenes of “Today,” but is Matt Lauer a Brazilian back-stabber?
Insiders say Lauer bigfooted new colleague Billy Bush’s Ryan Lochte scoop when Lauer landed his own exclusive interview with the dodgy swimmer on Wednesday night from the Rio Olympics after Bush broke the story.
Bush — who just joined “Today” from “Access Hollywood” — nailed the scoop of the games in Rio on Sunday when he randomly ran into Lochte while shopping with “Access Hollywood” co-host Kit Hoover and interviewed the swimmer on an iPhone about being the alleged victim in a dramatic robbery. (Sources told us that, ironically, Bush was hanging with Hoover since “it can be a bit ‘Mean Girls’” in “Today’s” talent cliques.)
But on Wednesday, as the story exploded, NBC Olympics host Bob Costas introduced an update on the Lochte story, because the swimmer’s tale seemed fishy — but it wasn’t Bush who was introduced, but instead Lauer, who reported he had just done his own interview with Lochte on the phone.
Buzz around NBC is that Bush was expected to do a follow-up, but Lauer swooped in. “Matt has a history of demanding interviews, and it’s Billy’s first big story as anchor,” said an insider. “It was his story. NBC snubbed Billy and let Matt do it. Billy got burned.”
Another source told us of the Lochte story: “This is Matt’s story now. Billy got it, but was pushed out.” The same source added that Lauer’s now angling to land a sit-down with Lochte, and “everyone wants that interview. Matt will probably land it.”
But a third source said that Lauer landed the Lochte chat because of his past work interviewing the swimmer, and that it was all-hands-on-deck to cover the news at NBC.
“Multiple NBC News reporters are working the Ryan Lochte story,” a network source told Page Six. “Matt has interviewed Ryan numerous times over the years — and Ryan specifically wanted to speak to Matt on the phone. No one was burned.”
A rep for NBC News did not comment.