Last week, a seemingly normal episode of the Today show was broadcast in the US.
However, by the end of Today with Hoda & Jenna, Jenna Bush Hager and guest host Justin Sylvester were embroiled in a controversy without realising it.
During Wednesday’s instalment of the daytime programme (10 August), the pair welcomed guest chef Andy Baraghani, who proceeded to roast a chicken in the studio.
The hosts watched on as Baraghani explained his recipe for the chicken, but viewers couldn’t help but notice Hager repeatedly sidling closer than usual to Sylvester, and placing her hand on his shoulders.
Viewers also highlighted how Sylvester shrugged Hager’s hands off of him and, in two separate instances, put the back of his hand on her stomach to move her away from him. Hager’s response was to look at the camera, smiling.
The moment divided audiences, with many left feeling outraged and calling out Hager for her actions. It was widely assumed that Sylvester had grown uncomfortable with Hager invading his personal space, and the segment sparked a debate surrounding consent and physical contact. Some viewers even suggested Hager should be suspended.
As the media began reporting on the outrage, though, Sylvester stepped in to clear up the matter on Friday (12 August) with a video he shared on his Instagram Stories. In short, he revealed that the pair were having a joke in an attempt to “flirt” with Baraghani and that the audience had taken their actions “out of context”.
Here is what Sylvester said in full:
“People thought that she was invading my space, and that’s actually not the truth.
“What we were doing was we were both flirting… well, I was flirting with the chef because he was so cute and I was pushing her out of the way so I could have a one-on-one moment with the chef and people took it the wrong way.”
Here, Sylvester’s masseuse said: “People are stupid. There are so many haters at home so this is what they do.”
Sylvester then continued:
“People just jump to conclusions – and, by the way, when I tell you that girl [Hager] is one of the nicest, most welcoming people that I’ve ever met… every time I’m on the show, it’s ‘cause she and Hoda [Kotb] request me. They’re so good to me. She’s awesome and she was a big champion of mine – still is. I like her and I hate that people are taking it out of context.”
Sylvester is best known as the host of Daily Pop on E!, which he co-presents with Morgan Stewart and Carissa Culiner.