Image via WikipediaTareq and Michaele Salahi may be America's most shameless, unpopular party guests--they attended a White House dinner uninvited and didn't even bring baked goods or flowers--but it's The Today Show host Matt Lauer and NBC Universal honchos who should be feeling at least as embarrassed as the Secret Service who failed to block the Salahis' path to cocktails and samosas.
Lauer interviewed the Salahi schnorrers on Tuesday's edition of Today without disclosing that the party crashers were being filmed by Bravo (with whom the Salahis are under contract) for possible airing on its inexplicably popular "The Real Housewives of D.C." reality show. Lauer's exclusive first interview of the couple was a journalistic coup; the Salahis had cancelled an appearance on "The Larry King Show" and were much sought after by news outlets that otherwise would have nothing on which to report except for the Afghanistan troop deployment, health care reform and Tiger Woods' marital woes. Ah, but here's the rub: Bravo and The Today Show's home, NBC, are both owned by NBC Universal, so Lauer's failure to disclose the corporate link either during Tuesday's interview or the post-interview discussion on Wednesday's Today edition raises journalistic hackles, the most painful kind of hackles extant.
NBC Nightly News did note the corporate connection in its Tuesday broadcast on a related story involving Emails allegedly exchanged between the Salahis and a Pentagon employee, and, for the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" players out there, anchor Brian Williams, along with NBC Universal's parent General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, were at the White House dinner with the Salahis, but didn't break bread with the social-climbing duo.
Apparently, NBC Universal is so mortified by its ethical lapse in not disclosing the Bravo/NBC connection that it allowed itself to be purchased by cable giant Comcast, but that's the stuff of a future "TUOL" post.