With the Today show struggling in the ratings, co-host Matt Lauer is finally speaking out about Ann Curry's controversial departure last year.
"I don't think the show and the network handled the transition well. You don't have to be Einstein to know that," Lauer told The Daily Beast. "We were seen as a family, and we didn't handle a family matter well."
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However, contrary to what's been widely speculated, it was not Lauer who advocated for Curry's dismissal, according to the article. In fact, Lauer reportedly offered to resign himself if executives thought it would be better for the show. "When Matt was informed that we had made this decision, his good counsel was to go slow, to take care of Ann, and to do the right things," former NBC News president Steve Capus told The Daily Beast. "He was quietly and publicly a supporter of Ann's throughout the entire process. It is unfair that Matt has shouldered an undue amount of blame for a decision he disagreed with."
Lauer admits that Curry was not his first choice for a co-anchor. Rather, before she was hired, Lauer reached out to his former co-host Katie Couric to see if she would return to the morning show. Couric was intrigued by the idea and planned to co-host Today with the hope that NBC would eventually pick up her daytime talk show. But executives rejected the idea and Couric signed with ABC for her show Katie.
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So, Curry and Lauer became a two-person team that never quite jelled, and executives decided that the best immediate solution to the show's slipping ratings was to dump Curry and replace her with Savannah Guthrie. But if anything, the move only drove viewers away and caused many to blame Lauer for Curry's tearful exit. Now, according to Lauer, the show is trying to focus less on salacious and scandalous news, and more on feel-good human interest stories.
"We're choosing more inspiring stories," he tells The Daily Beast. "It's a much more positive show, a more uplifting show. Much of the darkness is gone, by design."
And while Today still consistently ranks behind ABC's Good Morning America in the ratings, Lauer's finding a silver lining. "In some ways being No. 2 in the ratings is a real shot in the arm, a kick in the pants," he tells the Daily Beast. "It makes you hungrier. ... I don't think it's a bad thing to have a fire lit under your a--."