In the Toilet, Too: NBC's Ratings for Larry Craig Interview

By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, October 18, 2007

Broadcast network news division chiefs walked the corridors of their newsrooms yesterday, little flecks of foam about their mouths, muttering Macbeth's "life's but a walking shadow" gag, upon learning that Idaho Sen. Larry Craig's very first network TV interview since his June arrest for allegedly soliciting sex in an airport men's room had attracted only 5.7 million viewers to NBC's "Matt Lauer Reports" Tuesday night.

The Golden Age of Washington Political Sex Scandals Goosing Network News Numbers -- over.

Lauer had given his all for the prime-time interview about what he called "the most famous bathroom stop of the last 10 years."

He asked the tough questions:

Were you aware at all, Senator, of the reputation of that specific bathroom?

Lauer begged the family-values conservative to forgive him before asking whether, while maybe not gay, the senator might be bisexual.

He demonstrated for viewers at home the fancy footwork described by the arresting police officer in that bathroom.

He spoke movingly on the "Today" show about how tough the interview had been to do.

And still, only 5.7 million viewers bothered to watch.

A tragic statistic, considering NBC is averaging 6.3 million viewers in that very time slot with "Singing Bee" and "The Biggest Loser."

And a disaster, compared with the nearly 24 million who'd tuned in to watch Connie Chung interview Rep. Gary Condit about his affair with intern Chandra Levy back in '01, in the TV dog days of August, no less. Of course, in that case, the object of the politician's lust had wound up dead, though not by his hand.

Craig's interview also failed miserably at bringing home the ratings bacon compared to Babs Walters's interview, back in March '99, with the former first mistress, Monica Lewinsky.

Heck, even Lauer's interview with tear-shedding, nose-wiping, gum-smacking, bosom-heaving train wreck Britney Spears managed to attract nearly 9 million viewers just about 16 months before Lauer's sit-down with Craig and his wife, Suzanne.

The rerun of that Britney interview the next night brought in nearly as many viewers as did Lauer's Craig interview this week.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company