Booking Wars: Morning Shows Fight Over Ted Williams and his 90-year-old Mother

By Chris Ariens 

A few days ago, Ted Williams was a homeless man living in Columbus, OH. This morning, he was the subject of a network news booking battle.

Williams the so-called “man with the golden voice” was flown to New York, on NBC’s dime, for multiple appearance on this morning’s “Today” show. Network rivals have been chasing his story as well.

Ted Williams’ down-on-his-luck tale was first captured by a reporter from The Columbus Dispatch, who, with his small video camera showed the panhandler’s rich baritone voice. The video soon went viral, with the original YouTube clip having been viewed more than 11.7 million times.


Williams appeared exclusively on CBS’ “The Early Show” Wednesday, from Columbus, which was day one of the network booking battle. Late yesterday, Williams flew to New York with multiple interviews on the four-hour “Today” show planned. NBC also hoped to arrange an emotional reunion with his 90-year-old mother Julia, who Ted Williams hadn’t seen in 10 years.

But it didn’t work out that way.

Yesterday, a crew from CBS brought Julia Williams to LaGuardia airport. They too, hoped to get that emotional reunion. But Williams was escorted through a side exit and whisked away to his hotel and prepped for his “Today” show appearances.

Both shows worked through the night, hoping for the reunion. But NBC sources tell TVNewser representatives from CBS held on to Ted’s mother. Williams and his representative repeatedly called to try to connect the two, but CBS refused, says the insider. “They even hung up on them,” our source says.

Ted Williams, a Brooklyn native, made his appearance on “Today”  just as his mother was live on “The Early Show.” After the broadcasts went off the air, and the animosity died down, show execs called each other and have agreed that the networks will each have a crew in place as the reunion occurs this afternoon. And tomorrow, both “Today” and “Early” will conduct interviews with Ted Williams and his mother.

And not to be outdone, ABC’s “Good Morning America” sent a car to the “Today” show studios where, insiders tell us, Williams had gone outside for a cigaratte. So producers from ABC whisked Williams to the GMA studios a few blocks away where he appeared in the final minutes of that broadcast.

In the meantime, Williams will be back at 30 Rock later today, as he tapes “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and then appears on MSNBC’s “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.”

And after the media attention dies down, as it always does, Williams should have no shortage of work offers thanks to the attention he’s been getting — but mostly because of his sonorous gift.  He may even return to Ohio where he’s been offered a job as an announcer with the Cleveland Cavaliers.