The most uncomfortable Today show interviews ever

Admit it: You probably have at least one moment in your adult life when you genuinely questioned why the Today show was still airing. In fact, maybe it's the only thing you have left in common with certain elderly family members. Okay, we're poking fun, but you get the point. The long-running morning news program has produced some seriously clunky and cringe-worthy coverage over the years. Even so, you have to give the show props for its staying power. Since 1952, Today has come into our homes every single morning with its weird mix of heavy news and airy banter — all while accusations of patriarchal power abuse swirled at the helm.

Kind of sounds just like America itself, doesn't it? Perhaps it's also not surprising that — like America — Today has an imperfect past, studded with uncomfortable moments it would rather not revisit. We decided to crack open the vault and take a fresh look at some of Today's most notoriously painful interviews ever. Why? Just because. Let the awkwardness begin!

Kate Gosselin's daughters clam up during their big 'chance'

Kate Gosselin stopped by Today in 2014 with her two oldest daughters, then 13-year-old twins Cara and Mady, to clear the air about how their family reality show, Jon and Kate Plus 8, had affected them. Billed as "Growing Up Gosselin," the interview was meant to explore how the girls viewed their own childhood, aside from the media portrayal. Anchor Savannah Guthrie first asked Mady how she and her family were doing.

"Um.... " said Mady. Then, silence.

Her mom interjected: "Mady — your words," snapping her fingers. "It's your chance. Spit it out." Mady continued to blank. Guthrie then tossed a question to Mady's sister, who also said nothing. A flustered Kate took over by saying, "This is the most wordless I've heard of them all morning. I don't want to speak for them, but Mady, go ahead. Sort of the things you said in the magazine, that years later, they're good, they're fine. Go for it, Mad. It's your chance."

"No, you just said it," Mady replied.

Kate did most of the talking for the rest of the segment, yet insisted that her daughters "agreed" to do the interview, saying, "It's not like I forced them to do it."

Guthrie later appeared on Bravo's Watch What Happens Live and told host Andy Cohen that she "felt bad" for the girls.

Tom Cruise and Matt Lauer wage a war of words

Things got testy in a 2005 interview with Tom Cruise when Matt Lauer mentioned actress Brooke Shields. Quick backstory: Cruise already had a public spat with Shields, who praised antidepressants for helping her recover from postpartum depression (PPD). Cruise went on record saying that women should use "vitamins" for PPD instead of prescription drugs, prompting Shields to retort that Cruise should "stick to saving the world from aliens" and "let women decide what treatment is best." So when Cruise came on Today to promote War of the Worlds, Lauer asked him about the whole Brooke Shields thing — because, why not? — and surprise surprise, Cruise's mood totally changed.

Insisting that psychiatry is a "pseudo-science," Cruise went on a tear about antidepressants, saying: "All it does is mask the problem ... there is no such thing as a chemical imbalance."

"So postpartum depression to you is ... psychological gobbledygook?" Lauer countered.

"That's an alteration of what I'm saying," Cruise said. "I'm saying that drugs aren't the answer."

"But a little bit what you're saying, Tom, is you saying you want people [like Shields] to do well — but you want them to do well by taking the road that you approve of..."

Cruise stared at him incredulously before replying, "No. No, I'm not."

Needless to say, this war of words lasted a full five minutes. Oh, and one more nugget of awkward: Cruise's then-girlfriend Katie Holmes was seated just off stage.

Bill Clinton gets hot under the collar over Monica Lewinsky

When Craig Melvin sat down to interview former U.S. President Bill Clinton, he brought tough questions. First, Melvin reminded Clinton that in the #MeToo era, some say he should have resigned after the scandal involving his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Melvin asked, "Through the lens of #MeToo now, do you think differently, or feel more responsibility?"

Clinton immediately went on the offensive. "Nobody believes that I got out of that for free," he said. "I left the White House $16 million in debt. But you, typically, have ignored gaping facts ... and I bet you don't even know them." Clinton went on to describe all the positive things he's done for women, claiming that "two thirds of the American people sided with me" during the Lewinsky scandal. 

Melvin asked Clinton if he had apologized to Lewinsky. "I apologized to everybody in the world," Clinton said, emphasizing that while he never talked to Lewinsky directly, he did apologize publicly. Melvin then asked if he thought he owed Lewinsky a private apology. At this point, Clinton was clearly getting hot under the collar. "You think President Kennedy should have resigned? Do you believe President Johnson should have resigned? Someone should ask you these questions because of the way you formulate the questions," he said.

Clinton later told The Late Show host Stephen Colbert that the Today interview wasn't his "finest hour."

Matt Lauer gets super creepy with Anne Hathaway

This one's especially creepy in retrospect. You might remember actress Anne Hathaway's crazy wardrobe malfunction in 2012: When getting out of an SUV at the premiere of Les Miserables, she inadvertently flashed photographers, resulting in a revealing photo of her sans underwear. Soon afterward, Hathaway appeared on Today to promote the film. Despite how embarrassing the photo incident must have been to Hathaway, Matt Lauer decided to open the interview by saying: "Seen a lot of you lately." Dodging his creepy overtones, Hathaway simply responded: "Sorry about that. I'd be happy to stay home, but, the film."

"Let's just get it out of the way," Lauer continued. "You had a little wardrobe malfunction the other night. What's the lesson learned from something like that, other than you keep smiling, which you always do?"

Hathaway took a moment (maybe to process the patronizing vibe of the question) before responding, "It kind of made me sad on two accounts. One ... that we live in an age when someone takes a picture of another person in a vulnerable moment and rather than delete it and do the decent thing, sells it. And I'm sorry that we live in a culture that commodifies sexuality of unwilling participants ... Yeah, so, um, let's get back to Les Mis."

Hathaway: 1. Lauer: 0.

Matt Lauer fixates on Sandra Bullock's nudity

After Matt Lauer was fired from Today in 2017 due to allegations of sexual harassment, this interview with Sandra Bullock made the rounds online due to its severe ick factor. Similar to the aforementioned Hathaway exchange, when Bullock visited Today to promote her film The Proposal, Lauer seemingly couldn't wait to bring up her nude scene. He opened the interview by mentioning that she hadn't been on the show in two years, and then he said: "The major thing that's changed since you were here last? I have now seen you naked."

Bullock kept her game face on, replying with a smile, "And I am so sorry about that. Were you able to sleep afterwards?" An amused Lauer smiled, mumbled something about his new screensaver, and then apparently broke eye contact with the Oscar-winning actress. "Why are you looking down?" Bullock challenged. Lauer replied that he was looking at his "notes," but Bullock called him out. "Your notes are not over here," she said. "...You went like that [implying he was gazing at her chest]." The two continued to banter about the nude scene, and about a minute and a half into the interview, Lauer finally started to ask regular questions.

He ended the interview in a way that's not surprising: "Did I mention you have a nude scene in this movie?" 

"Pretty much from the time you opened your mouth, yeah," Bullock replied.

Savannah Guthrie and Omarosa go toe to toe

Self-proclaimed White House whistleblower Omarosa Manigault Newman and Today show anchor Savannah Guthrie both brought their A game to this 2018 interview. As Guthrie quickly spit out questions, the media-savvy Manigault Newman wasn't about to let herself be cut off. The results were tense, to say the least. A little background: Manigault Newman (often referred to as just Omarosa) became a reality star on The Apprentice, then a member of President Donald Trump's White House communications team, but she was later let go in scandalous fashion and went on to write a scathing book about her former boss and his administration.

Guthrie brought up those numerous allegations and repeatedly asked Manigault Newman if she thought Trump "lies often," to which the author eventually replied, "absolutely." As her guest elaborated, Guthrie interrupted to ask pointedly: "[Then] why did you work for him?" Manigault Newman responded with, "Savannah, slow down ... You don't have to ask ten questions in one second. It's okay." The choppy cadence of the interview continued. Guthrie kept interrupting with critical questions about her guest's actions; Manigault Newman kept patronizing the veteran anchor, controlling the pace of the interview. It was uncomfortable to watch.

For what it's worth: ex-Today host Megyn Kelly later defended Guthrie, asserting that Manigault Newman "approaches a lot of these interviews like she's being attacked with every question — and she's not being attacked."

Burt Reynolds says some pretty weird things to Hoda Kotb

About six months before he died at age 82, actor Burt Reynolds gave a funny, yet slightly bizarre interview to the Today show's Hoda Kotb while promoting 2017's The Last Movie Star. Kotb greeted the legend with, "Good morning, how are you?" Reynolds responded, "Great, since you left me — it was what an hour ago, wasn't it? You got home all right?" Like the pro that she is, Kotb quickly deflected by praising his "comedic timing."

Later, Kotb asked, "Who would you consider the love of your life?" Reynolds replied, "You're naughty, you really are. I'm dead in the water, no matter what I say. Well, she was 7 when I fell in love with her." After a pause — during which his publicist probably couldn't breathe — he continued, "Stage 7, for about 11 years. I would say Sally [Field]." Phew.

Kotb ended the interview by saying, "Well, Burt, we love you. You are a legend, and it's an honor ... When we were talking to different people and saying you were coming, everyone had the exact same reaction — they were just like, 'Wow.'" Reynolds looked touched, and then replied, "I am so proud of you for not having your lips larger." Um, sorry, what?

Savannah Guthrie and Khloe Kardashian have daddy issues

Savannah Guthrie admitted to Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens Live that if she could redo one interview on Today, it would be this one with Khloe Kardashian. Still new to the job, she said she felt obligated to ask Kardashian the big "paternity" question. "There had been these rumors that her father, Robert Kardashian, wasn't really her father," said Guthrie. Even though Guthrie didn't really want to ask "because it was kind of probing and personal and intrusive," she felt that she should.

Guthrie said she "delayed, and delayed, and delayed" — to the point where she could hear the crew counting down to the commercial break: "Five seconds, four..." In a rush, she stammered: "Actually, I think we're out of time, I was going to ask — nothing more to say about what people said about your — father — your biological father?" Thankfully, Khloe laughed, saying, "I don't know who my daddy is, I guess!"

Guthrie told Cohen that while it was "embarrassing," Kardashian was "lovely" to her after the fact. However, Guthrie also revealed that colleague Matt Lauer "ran down the stairs going, 'What just happened? How did you ask her with three seconds, who's your father?' He loved it so much."

Jane Fonda totally shuts down Megyn Kelly

Everything started off nicely when Oscar winners Jane Fonda and Robert Redford appeared on Today with Megyn Kelly in 2017, but when Kelly asked Fonda about getting plastic surgery, the vibe took a nasty turn. First, Kelly praised Fonda for aging "beautifully" and with "strength," but then Kelly noted that she'd read that Fonda isn't proud to admit she's "had work done." Giving her what looks like a death stare, Fonda asked, "We really want to talk about that now?" Fonda then quickly took control of the interview, saying "Let me tell you why I love this movie that we did, Our Souls at Night, rather than plastic surgery."

Later, in an interview with Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie, Fonda mocked the whole situation. Sitting with Lily Tomlin to promote their Netflix series Grace & Frankie, Fonda said that she'd known Tomlin for 50 years. Tomlin then joked, "I think before your first facelift," to which Fonda replied, "Who are you, Megyn Kelly?"

After Kelly got fired from Today (more on that later), Fonda said she wished her the best, telling Entertainment Tonight, "I feel badly, because, you know, I wanted her to make it, I did." Kelly, however, told Us Weekly that the Fonda interview was one of her biggest regrets of her first year on Today. "I certainly wish I hadn't put on Jane Fonda," she said. "That didn't go well!"

Megyn Kelly defends blackface Halloween costumes

The ex-queen of Fox News did a total face plant when asking her guest panel (Melissa Rivers, Jenna Bush Hager, and Jacob Soboroff) to weigh in on what makes an "offensive" Halloween costume. Giving her guests "fair warning" that she was "a little fired up," Kelly started off by complaining that "political correctness has gone amok," noting one university's new rules banning certain Halloween costumes. Later, Kelly mentioned how Luann de Lesseps from The Real Housewives of New Jersey got heat for darkening her skin for a Diana Ross costume — and that's when the segment went off the rails. Kelly defended the costume, saying, "I don't know how that got racist on Halloween. It's not like she's walking around [like that] in general."

One source said the staff on set instantly knew it had a problem, telling People that "everyone just looked at each other like 'Oh, sh*t. This probably isn't good.'" Kelly later apologized, but her hour of the Today show was abruptly canceled.

Sarah Palin takes a bite out of Savannah Guthrie

When Donald Trump was running for president, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin went on Today to talk to Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie about the Iowa caucus. Seemingly out of the blue, Guthrie brought up Palin's recent comments about her son, Track, who had been arrested for assault. On the campaign trail for Trump, Palin had said that Track suffers from PTSD. "My son like so many others, they come back a bit different, they come back hardened..." she said. She also took an apparent dig at the Obama administration, "It's a shame that our military personnel even have to wonder, if they have to question, if they're respected anymore. It starts from the top."

In the Today interview, Guthrie referenced those words: "You said that President Obama may be to blame for some of the PTSD that's out there." Palin emphatically denied any such thing, then scolded the show for asking about her son. "You guys brought me here to talk about Iowa politics and the caucus tonight, not to talk about my kids. And that was a promise. But as things go in the world of media, you guys don't always keep your promises evidently. I never blamed President Obama."

Before the interview ended, Lauer made a point to say that "there were no specific promises made about content of the interview."

Kanye West accuses Matt Lauer of baiting him

After Kanye West made his infamous comment during a televised Hurricane Katrina benefit — "George Bush doesn't care about black people" — the rapper appeared on Today with Matt Lauer to discuss it. During the segment, Lauer played a clip of President Bush reacting to West's words. In the clip, Bush says: "It's one thing to say, you know, 'I don't appreciate the way he's handled his business.' It's another thing to say, 'This man's a racist.' I resent it. It's not true, and it is one of the most disgusting moments of my presidency." The show then cut to a clip of Lauer asking West to respond to Bush's comments. 

West conceded, saying that "in a moment of emotion to peg someone ... as a racist, is not — it's just not right." Oddly, Lauer played the clip of Bush again — but this time without sound, instructing West to watch it. "Don't even listen this time. I want you to just look at his face ... Just look at him ... What would you say to him if he would meet with you face-to-face?"

West didn't take kindly to the stunt and called Lauer out. "I didn't need you guys to show me the tape in order to prompt my emotions of what I'm going to say ... I don't need all the jazz." West then asked for quiet on the set before "manning up" to past mistakes.