Today host Hoda Kotb (left) hosted the show this morning with her best friend, WWL-TV's Karen Swensen, but the hour was blacked out on WDSU-TV in New Orleans. "WDSU does not enable the promotion of anchors on other local television stations through roles as hosts of programs on our television station," WDSU said in a statement.
The last hour of the Today show on NBC, a place for fluffy talk and copious day drinking, normally is hosted by former WWL-TV anchor and hometown favorite Hoda Kotb along with Kathie Lee Gifford — but with Gifford gone today, Kotb's cohost was her best friend: WWL-TV's Karen Swensen.
That was enough to get the hour pulled from WDSU-TV, which airs the Today show in New Orleans and is WWL's rival in the market.* In its place was a repeat of The Queen Latifah Show.
The move didn't go over well with WDSU viewers, judging from the station's Facebook page, which had hundreds of comments critical of the decision. "The station could have taken the high ground and honored a New Orleans local and their success. New Orleans truly is the Biggest Little town where everyone supports each other regardless of loyalty," wrote one viewer. Another wrote, "New Orleans was a focus of this hour. Shame on you for not allowing your viewers to make their own decision."
WDSU-TV issued a statement on the matter via Facebook:
Our decision not to air the fourth hour of the "Today Show" follows a longstanding practice. WDSU does not enable the promotion of anchors on other local television stations through roles as hosts of programs on our television station. We regret the circumstances that required us to make this decision.
Asked for further comment, WDSU news director Jonathan Shelley emailed, "The statement fully explains our position."
The segment itself was light happy talk. During the show, the two promoted New Orleans — Swensen brought a bag of local swag (including a black and gold umbrella, a Robert king cake and a bottle of Bobby Hebert wine) — reminisced, and talked about innocuous subjects like "Swimsuit Shame."
WWL-TV news director Bill Siegel had no comment this afternoon on either Swensen's appearance or the blackout. A source at WWL-TV who asked not to be quoted said that Swensen's appearance on a rival network had been approved by management and was well-known in the newsroom: "WWL was fine with Karen going on there. It wasn't an issue for us."