Matt Lauer on his 'interesting year,' support from Kathie Lee Gifford

If there are two hosts who know just what it's like to be at the center of a public-relations storm, it's Matt Lauer and Jay Leno.


Although both personalities have seen their once-sterling reputations take a beating in recent years, they’ve handled their situations quite differently, with Leno repeatedly using his monologue to bash executives at beleaguered NBC, and Lauer mostly turning the ridicule on himself.

In a chat Thursday on Leno's "Tonight Show," the hosts kept it professional and avoided taking swipes at NBC – at least while the cameras were rolling -- but naturally the subject of Lauer's tenuous position at "Today" came up.

“It’s been an interesting year, no question about it,” he said, in something of an understatement: The past 12 months have seen the tearful and very public ouster of co-host Ann Curry, a ratings decline for “Today” and a steady drumbeat of rumors about Lauer’s role in the debacle.

Lauer, however, put an optimistic spin on it all. "The fact of the matter is, every day millions of people still invite us into their homes to deliver the news. I am not a guy who complains. I love this job, I really do."

Leno also asked Lauer about Kathie Lee Gifford, who recently circulated a letter of support for her colleague  among "Today" staffers, reportedly gathering seven pages of signatures.

Moved by the "very sweet" gesture, Lauer described Gifford as "one of the dearest people."

"She's kind and she's compassionate -- and she's been there," he said of the former  "Live!" co-host, who was edged out of that gig in 2000 after a sweatshop-labor scandal and her husband's infidelity turned her into a media punching bag. "My mother always told me in times of adversity, you find out who your friends are. Kathie Lee's a great friend."