Ken Tucker
February 09, 2009 AT 07:31 PM EST

Nadya Suleman was “fixated” on wanting a “huge family” because she wanted “more affection from [her] mother.” That’s the story that was laid out this morning on The Today Show, as Ann Curry interviewed the mother of now-14 children. It was a coup for The Today Show–this is the kind of non-hard-news, tabloid-level story that morning shows adore: not tragic (the babies are alive and, on camera this morning, adorable in the hospital neo-natal unit we were shown) yet controversial (as Curry asked, “How will you feed all these children?”).

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Suleman is now becoming into pop-culture focus: we’re getting used to her calm voice, her avid gaze at her questioner. If we accept the pop-psychology scenario The Today Show imposed on the story, Suleman, after a “failed seven-year marriage” and numerous miscarriages, ended up having a total of 14 children. She volunteered that much of her motivation was about “me projecting my own wants and wishes onto my children.”

“To what degree is this too much about you and not enough about them?” asked Curry, even as The Today Show made it more about Suleman and less about the babies. Suleman came off as articulate, pious (“God will provide in his own way,” she said in answer to the “how will you feed them” question), and troubled, admitting to feeling “guilt, fear, disappointed in myself” for not being able to carry the babies to term. Curry asked Suleman if she was “deluded.” I’d say that The Today Show could have spent more time on real hard news, such as the economy and the President’s struggling stimulus package, but what’s the point? A morning news show like this mixes hard and soft news–if Suleman wasn’t around, they’d have spent more time talking about the Grammy Awards, most likely.

Meanwhile, those babies await attention: from their mother, but also from an America that will probably do its usual variety of things: help them, condemn or praise their mother, exploit them, and gaze upon them blissfully. And of course: More about Nadya tomorrow night, on NBC’s Dateline.

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