Matt Lauer, Ann Curry Today Show Fallout Was "Personal": "Everybody Understood That Ann Was Kicked Out of Her Position Because Matt Didn't Want Her There"
Ann Curry's seemingly abrupt oust from the Today show last June didn't come as a huge surprise to many of her colleagues, a new cover story for New York magazine reveals. In fact, reporter Joe Hagan writes, her fate at the top-rated NBC morning talk show was, in a way, sealed from the get-go because of the obvious lack of chemistry between her and co-host Matt Lauer.
"Everybody at NBC, everybody at the Today show, everybody understood that Ann was kicked out of her position because Matt didn't want her there," a prominent NBC staffer told Hagan. "That's why it was so personal between Ann and Matt."
Don Nash, a current executive producer for the show, added that there was just no hiding the pair's lackluster banter on-screen.
"You can't fake it for very long that early in the morning," he told Hagan. "I think viewers have a sixth sense about all that. If your two anchors don't like each other off the air, they're not going to be fooled if they love each other on the air."
Curry, 55, took Meredith Vieira's place in the co-anchor slot in June 2011 shortly after the former View co-host announced her decision to leave to spend more time with her ailing husband. After a few months of on-air awkwardness, however, Lauer was reportedly so fed up that he was ready to bolt out the door.
"Off air, Curry and Lauer had no relationship and barely spoke," Hagan writes. "When she started, Curry had asked Lauer out for lunch to get advice, but Lauer seemed to drag his feet scheduling it and Curry felt he didn't offer much. … with Curry, who threw off his rhythm and also threatened his dominance of the hard-news stories, he could often look sour."
Adding to his frustrations was the fact that Lauer, 55, had recently found out that NBC had been in talks to bring American Idol host Ryan Seacrest onto the network -- possibly to replace him. To make matters worse, Lauer reportedly caught wind of the rumors while at a White House Christmas party, where he was waiting at security after Curry had forgotten her driver's license.
"By early last year, Lauer seemed to his colleagues to be growing more and more disgruntled," Hagan adds. "He began getting more involved in the daily story lineup, getting in fights with producers and tearing the show up in the early-morning hours. He made it clear to friends that he was miserable with Curry and uncomfortable with his corporate masters at Comcast."
"He spoke often of downsizing his work life, playing more golf, spending more time with his kids in the Hamptons," Hagan continues.
One of the places Lauer had been looking to escape to amid all the tumultuous discussions at NBC was rival network ABC, Hagen reveals. In fact, Lauer had been hoping to develop a daytime talk show with his former co-host Katie Couric, and had even spoken with Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, about the possible move.
Things seemed like they would move forward, and ABC executives were excited about the possible new addition to their team, but ultimately, Hagan writes, Lauer "surprised them all by calling and saying thanks but no thanks."
In the end, Lauer stayed on the Today show because he said he "cared about the show and staff" -- and a hefty paycheck, to the tune of "a reported $25 million a year to work four days a week."
A few months later, in June 2012, Curry was ousted from the Today show, and Lauer would go on to shoulder much of the blame for her sudden, emotional departure.
"It was a hard time for everybody," he said in an interview with the Daily Beast earlier this month. "I don't think the show and the network handled the transition well. You don't have to be Einstein to know that."
"It clearly did not help us," he continued. "We were seen as a family, and we didn't handle a family matter well."