Coffee, News and S-bombs

Viewers of NBC's Today Show received a side of vulgarity with their coffee this morning. 

Today Show co-host Matt Lauer interviewed Norwegian base jumper Hans Lange, who miraculously survived a crash into a cliff in Norway by catching himself on a tree, suffering only a broken leg.  While describing his ordeal, Lange stated, “I was pretty angry with myself.  I was like, holy s---.” 

Lauer, who looked embarrassed by his guest's word choice, covered his face with his notes and said “That's Norwegian for whoops, that wasn't good,” before continuing the interview.

Fifteen minutes later in the broadcast, Lauer and his colleagues Meredith Vieira, Amy Robach and Al Roker discussed the incident without offering an apology.  In fact, they seemed more interested in giggling about it than showing concern about a vulgarity aired during a morning news broadcast:

MEREDITH VIEIRA: Meanwhile, you know earlier for those folks on the east coast if you saw the interview that Matt did with the base-jumper, Hans. He had a little moment where he slipped up and..

MATT LAUER: We're not talking about the moment when his chute slammed him into the wall.

VIEIRA: No! When he was describing it, he went holy --

LAUER: Yeah, he had a slip of the tongue. I don't know if it was a slip of the tongue but he said in the interview that he was thinking when he realized what happened he said "holy" and then a word that we generally don't say here on the air.

VIEIRA: No, not on the air, never.

AL ROKER: The interesting thing is when we watch the video it's like kind of a Road Runner cartoon, a ooh-ahh-it-ah -but he never says it.

VIEIRA: But when he said it, actually, we have a shot of your reaction to it.

LAUER: It caught me off guard.

VIEIRA: It's like you're trying to stuff it back in.

LAUER: No, for a second I thought, did I say that or did he say that? So for you people in the Central Time Zone and the West Coast, you're not going to know what we're talking about because all you'll hear is a little -- that's it. But the East Coast, you'll know what we meant.

VIEIRA: Well now they'll know.

After Jane Fonda's use of the c-word during the February 14, 2008 Today broadcast, the Parents Television Council called upon NBC to “change its broadcasting practices and implement a time delay on all of its live broadcasts, thereby ensuring that this type of language does not air on the publicly-owned airwaves.” 

It's been nearly seven months since the last “slip of the tongue” and while it's clear nothing has changed at NBC, it's also very clear procedures must be put into place to bar this from happening again.   

After all, not all Today viewers are fortunate enough to see the tape-delayed version of the broadcast. 

Colleen Raezler is a research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.