Entertainment

Why Didn’t The “Today” Anchors Address “The Biggest Loser” Controversy?

Rachel Frederickson won $250,000 Tuesday for dropping 155 pounds on the NBC reality contest. In an interview with Today, the show ignored the uproar over her dramatic weight loss.

That The Biggest Loser rewards extreme weight loss, possibly to an unhealthy degree, is nothing new. After 10 years and 15 seasons, contestants on the NBC reality show have lost a collective thousands of pounds.

That the show could surprise anyone might be the biggest shock of all. Yet the cameras captured the show’s trainers, Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper, looking upset during the finale taping Tuesday as the eventual winner, Rachel Frederickson, was revealed.

Here is how they looked:

NBC

Frederickson went from 260 pounds to 105 pounds over the course of the show, and displayed a focus on winning that was unusual even for the intense conditions of The Biggest Loser. After the finale aired, Twitter erupted with concern for Frederickson, and anger that the show let her — or encouraged her — to go this far.

One past contestant, Kai Hibbard of Season 3, tweeted, “Does a contestant have to drop dead on the scale before #TheBiggestLoser addresses how dangerous this whole spectacle is?”

Why, then, would the Today anchors who interviewed Frederickson Wednesday morning not ask her about the flare-up? The morning program has been struggling in second place in a ratings war with ABC’s Good Morning America.

Al Roker began the two-minute interview by telling Frederickson, “Congratulations. You look amazing!” (The interview was not done in person in the show’s New York studio; Frederickson was unable to travel there because of weather.) Frederickson was then asked about her athletic past, and whether that helped her win. They also asked what she might do with the $250,000 prize money. (“Shop for clothes,” she answered.) The interview closed with more congratulations, and Savannah Guthrie adding that she looks “fabulous.”

Throughout the interview, the chyron across the screen read “Loser’s Big Winner: Rachel Frederickson Drops Some Serious Pounds.”

A Today publicist responded to an email Wednesday but did not address why the anchors of the NBC News program had avoided asking Frederickson during the unrestricted interview whether she is OK. When asked whether Jillian Michaels would like to comment on the finale and Frederickson, her publicist directed questions about the show to its producers, and wrote in an email: “Jillian Michaels will not comment on Rachel’s journey as she was not her trainer. She is celebrating the at home win of her contestant, Tumi.” (The Biggest Loser gives a $100,000 prize to the ousted contestant who loses the most weight after being sent home.)

During a media conference call on Wednesday, several reporters asked Frederickson about her weight loss, the worried reaction to it, and why the show and its medical team did not step in — she only glancingly addressed the questions. “I worked out a ton and ate super healthy,” she said. She said she has been on a 1,600-calorie diet under medical supervision. “I am extremely proud of the way I lost the weight on the show,” she said.

The publicist for The Biggest Loser had no comment. According to Nielsen Media Research, the finale episode drew the show’s biggest audience since December 2011, with 7.4 million viewers.

Summer Anne Burton contributed to this report.

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