Up until Ann Curry’s tearful goodbye from the “Today” show in August, the morning show had taken pride in executing smooth handoffs: from Bryant Gumbel to Lauer in 1997; Couric to Meredith Vieira in 2006; and Vieira to Curry in 2011.
But for many reasons, the same did not occur when Curry was ousted from the NBC show last year. Instead, Curry was said to be bullied out, according to an excerpt from Brian Stelter’s new book in today’s The New York Times.
Stelter reports that Curry was constantly made fun of by the boys club behind “Today”: At one point, the executive producer, Jim Bell, commissioned a blooper reel of Curry’s worst on-air mistakes. Another time, according to a producer, Bell called staff members into his office toshow a gaffe she made during a cross-talk with a local station. (Bell denies both incidents.) Then several boxes of Curry’s belongings ended up in a coat closet, as if she had already been booted off the premises. One staff person recalled that “a lot of time in the control room was spent making fun of Ann’s outfit choices or just generally messing with her.” On one memorable spring morning, Curry wore a bright yellow dress that spawned snarky comparisons to Big Bird. The staff person said that others in the control room, which included 14 men and 3 women, according to my head count one morning, Photoshopped a picture of Big Bird next to Curry and asked co-workers to vote on “Who wore it best?”
Before she even arrived at Studio 1A, Curry’s ambition was legendary. In 1993, while anchoring an early-morning show called “NBC News at Sunrise,” Curry made a play for the weekend “Nightly News” slot. When it went to Brian Williams instead, she called the president of NBC News, Andrew Lack, at his home to express her frustration. When she eventually replaced Lauer as the “Today” news reader four years later, Curry jockeyed to fill in for Katie Couric every time Couric was away. According to several well-placed producers, Couric didn’t appreciate Curry’s eagerness. Producers said Couric thought Curry was melodramatic and, in a word that one used, “fake.”
When Couric left the network in 2006, Executive Producer Jeff Zucker decided to quietly pursue Meredith Vieira as co-host — despite it being Curry’s “turn” as co-host.
“When Vieira agreed to take the job, in April 2006, Zucker called Curry to his office for what he said was a ‘very uncomfortable conversation,'” writes Stelter. “As soon as Curry saw the direction of the talk, her tears started welling up. Curry told Zucker that she believed she had earned the chance to co-host. She said that she might leave the network.”
But with the promise of one day getting the gig, Curry stayed with the intention of succeeding Vieira — which she did, for a short period of time before saying a tearful on-air goodbye amidst drama behind-the-scenes at the “Today” show.
Not exactly the image the show that sold itself as a family — “America’s First Family” — wanted to portray.
And while the “Today” ratings have suffered ever since Curry’s departure, it hasn’t been easy on the 56-year-old journalist, either.
“On particularly bad days ‘Good Morning America’ beat ‘Today’ by a million viewers. Some of this was attributed to Curry’s fans exacting revenge,” Writes Stelter. “She was overwhelmed by condolences. ‘It feels like I died,’ she told colleagues afterward, ‘and I’ve seen my own wake.'”
Read the full excerpt from Stelter’s upcoming book on the morning show wars here >