Every month, Leo Laporte delivers technology advice to millions of people who download his podcasts and tune in to his syndicated radio show. He is, as one of his programs bills him, "The Tech Guy" whose digital savvy was recognized, near the dawn of the web, with an Emmy Award. But for all his expertise, Laporte still managed to clumsily broadcast an explicit Google chat with his lover, exposing the affair he's apparently been carrying on with his CEO.
We started hearing gossip about a romance between Laporte, whose website says he's married, and his hand-picked business chief Lisa Kentzell earlier this month. (That's Laporte and Kentzell above.) But the evidence, provided by a suspicious Laporte listener, was only circumstantial; Laporte and Kentzell traveled to conferences in Las Vegas and Paris together recently, and Laporte uploaded pictures to his Google Plus account indicating he was vacationing at a San Diego resort hotel with Kentzell and her son. Laporte and Kentzell this past February announced a goal to double annual revenue to $8 million at TWiT.tv, the company where Laporte his co-hosts and staff stream and podcast some 27 different shows, all related to technology, to a monthly audience they estimate at more than 5 million. It makes sense that Laporte and his CEO would spend a lot of time together while working to achieve such rapid growth.
Then today another anonymous tipster, who has also been spending a lot of time watching and listening to Laporte's shows, pointed us toward something much more concrete. "Download Leo Laporte's This Week in Google podcast, episode 115," this person wrote. "Go to 1:11:04."
We pulled up the October show in its video version (Laporte typically offers his shows in audio and video, as well as live and for later download). In it, Laporte and his co-hosts (Kentzell not among them) were discussing a recent overhaul of the user interfaces for various Google apps like Gmail. Laporte frequently switched the video stream over to a live feed from his computer monitor.
At one point Laporte cut over to his Google Voice account to show a scam message he'd received there. As Laporte scrolled the screen, he revealed the next item in his Google Voice box: an intimate text-message conversation (shown in the image at the top of this post) that he'd concluded with Kentzell two hours prior. After a split second, Laporte or his producer cut away incongruously to a view of the home page of Laporte's web browser. But the messages had already been exposed to the live audience:
Me [Laporte]: come over. I'm naked in bed (8:13 am)
[Laporte]: waiting for you. the door is open (8:13 am)
Lisa Kentzell: I love you. (11:48 am)
[Laporte]: i still smell and taste you. i adore you. (12:13 pm)
It's not clear if Laporte realized he exposed the messages on the air. The file he subsequently uploaded for distribution via Apple's iTunes included the steamy exchange, even though it would have been possible to edit it out.
The last time we checked, Laporte was married with two children. The bio on his website still lists his longtime spouse Jennifer as his wife (don't be fooled by the 2007 date at the top—the bio has been updated with information about a new studio announced earlier this year and about a 2008 product launch). In September Laporte uploaded to his Google Plus account a picture of Jennifer and their daughter shopping together in San Francisco.
On other hand, the pictures Laporte publicly shared from San Diego seem to feature Kentzell's son and no one from his own family. And Laporte's Google Plus profile says he's "In a relationship" rather than married, even though the latter is a listed option. Kentzel's Facebook profile likewise lists her as "in a relationship."
A phone call to Kentzell and multiple emails to both Kentzell and Laporte over several hours Thursday were not returned. Maybe Laporte just leaked his own full-blown extramarital affair. Or, less scandalously, maybe he's separated from his wife and just gave an embarrassing public debut to his budding office romance. Or maybe this is all some sort of prank; Laporte does have a long history in local radio, where subterfuge and publicity stunts are common.
[Update: Laporte said he is indeed separated from his wife. It's been abut a year, "it's just not something I talk about on air," he said in a Saturday morning tweet. Laporte later blogged that he "apologized abjectly and abundantly" to Kentzell for deciding to leave the chat in the video podcast he distributed after the live recording. He added that the relationship "may have come as a bit of a shock to our staff" but that his family was aware of it.]
At the moment, it appears Laporte made a simple technological mistake that turned out to have much larger ramifications than its blink-of-an-eye duration would suggest. For all his considerable mastery of tech, Laporte uses it in such huge quantities that something like this was bound to happen. He's constantly beaming his face and computer screen across the internet as the regular host on four of his company's netcasts and as an occasional presence on many of the 23 others. He also hosts "Tech Guy," a broadcast that Premiere Radio Networks syndicates every weekend to stations in 150 different cities, plus XM satellite radio. Like his internet shows, the old-fashioned radio program is livecast online as it's recorded. The pressure is high; Laporte's live audience is so large he can crash web servers merely by giving out a URL during the course of a show.
In the end, Laporte is a lot like his listeners: Constantly trying to educate himself about tech, and yet constantly using so much of it, so often, that he inevitably makes dumb mistakes. And while the Yale-educated tech-head's stumble might be embarrassing, it also leaves him, possible broken vows aside, somewhat endearingly "naked," as he himself might put it, to his audience.
Prospective investors and business partners, on the other hand, won't take comfort in the hedonistic pleasures Laporte indulges with the business executive who was supposed to bring discipline and financial growth to his company. Quite the opposite, in fact.