In the wake of the embarrassing debacle of NBC’s now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t $1 million deal for Paris Hilton‘s first post-penitentiary interview, Matt Lauer said during a conference call to promote next Sunday’s “Concert for Diana” telecast that there was “no quid pro quo” involved in his exclusive interview with Princes William and Harry — despite the fact that the network paid $2.5 million for the rights to broadcast the tribute.
“When the concert deal was signed they hadn’t even decided they were even going to do an interview,” said Lauer. “There was no ‘We’ll do the concert and we get the boys.’”
Lauer, who will act as host of the one hour special, says courting the princes “was like an audition.” He explained: “If you had any idea how much stuff I had to go through to get that interview you’d know there was no quid pro quo.”
Lauer said getting the first sit-down with the British heir and spare — which lasted all of 35 minutes — involved “months” of several meetings in New York and London with palace officials and sending copies of his high profile interviews for review. (Lauer says he chose to send reels featuring his sit-downs with Bush and Putin but thinks his much heralded Britney Spears heart-to-heart didn’t make the final cut on the sample DVDs.)
Clearly eager to distance himself from Parisgate, which the Today anchor said he was “completely removed from,” Lauer said the news division needs to remain free to go after the big interviews but acknowledged that the network may have to come clean in the future about the way in which high profile gets wind up on the air. “If the entertainment division judges that this concert for Diana is a good ‘get,’ it can’t mean that we as members of the news division are excluded from pursuing an interview with her sons. If people want to know how that came about, then in the future we need to make those deals more transparent.”
— Diane Clehane