Katie Couric said it took prison time for Martha Stewart to ‘develop a sense of humor’

Katie Couric and Martha Stewart 2019
Martha Stewart and Katie Couric attend The High Line’s 2019 Spring Benefit on May 21, 2019, in New York City. Theo Wargo/Getty Images
  • Katie Couric once wrote a poem about Martha Stewart pointing out how they were completely different.
  • Couric read the poem at an awards ceremony and said Stewart “seemed a little miffed.”
  • The veteran TV journalist said Stewart got a sense of humor after she served time in prison.

When Katie Couric was tasked with presenting an award to Martha Stewart in 1996, she decided to write a poem that described all the ways in which they were completely different.

But it didn’t get the most enthusiastic response from the lifestyle expert.

Couric revealed details of the encounter in “Martha, Dear Martha,” a chapter in her new memoir, “Going There,” which was released on Tuesday.

The veteran journalist said she presented the award to Stewart at the height of the “so-called mommy wars.”

“I had no problem whatsoever with stay-at-home moms,” Couric wrote. “At the same time, I’d become a very public face of the opposite – a working woman trying to keep it all together, joking on-air about sometimes falling short. In other words, not Martha Stewart.”

“We were a funny combo: goddess of the hearth and frazzled career gal, who was unlikely to spend Saturday dipping candles while listening to Gregorian chants,” she added.

Katie Couric and Martha Stewart
Couric and Stewart have known each other for decades. Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Glamour)

So when Stewart won a Matrix Award – an annual awards ceremony held by the Association for Women in Communications – Couric decided to point out their differences.

“I didn’t know her that well, so I wouldn’t be able to tell moving personal anecdotes,” Couric wrote. “Frankly, I’d been a little apprehensive about the whole thing, so I’d come up with an idea: Martha was everything I wasn’t – why not play off that?”

Couric said she worked on Stewart’s poem for weeks, “employing the kind of care she’d bring to needlepointing a dog collar.”

“Anything I can do, you can do better,” part of the poem reads. “Potting a plant, or knitting a sweater.”

“Marzipan, tarte tatin, coq au vin too,” it continues. “Bruschetta, pancetta’s not all you can do. Your holiday meals are a feast for the eyes. Can’t you use Stove Top and Mrs. Smith’s pies?”

Couric said the women in the room – “working women almost exclusively” – roared with laughter as she read the two-page poem.

Martha Stewart sentenced to prison 2004
Martha Stewart leaves federal court in Manhattan on July 16, 2004, after being sentenced. DON EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images

“I hadn’t set out to write a treatise on the escalating mommy wars, but the poem subversively nailed where a lot of us were back then and what we were anxious about,” she wrote. “I felt like the applause in the room was driven by a sense of recognition. Martha, however, seemed a little miffed.”

Couric said Stewart then turned to her and asked: “Would you know what pancetta was if it weren’t for me? Would you know what bruschetta was if it weren’t for me?”

“By way of thanks, she had a very small bouquet delivered, and her office sent over a cookie-decorating kit,” Couric recalled. “It took a few years and some prison time for Martha to develop a sense of humor.”

Stewart spent five months in a minimum-security prison after she was found guilty of conspiracy, making false statements, and obstruction of agency proceedings in 2004.

Martha Stewart leaves prison 2005
Martha Stewart with her daughter Alexis after leaving prison in West Virginia on March 4, 2005. JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images

The charges stemmed from an incident in December 2001, when she sold off her ImClone Systems shares a day before their value plunged after receiving information that wasn’t publicly available, according to the Associated Press.

Couric said she has since loved watching Stewart’s “ironic appreciation of her place in the culture,” including a cooking show with her “unlikely BFF Snoop Dogg.”

“Nothing delights me quite like Martha Stewart poking fun at herself in her own tasteful way,” she added.

Representatives for Martha Stewart didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.