“Operation Bambi” Revealed: The Today Show’s Plot To Oust Anne Curry

By Carrie Straus April 18, 2013 01:08 PM
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“Operation Bambi” Revealed: The Today Show’s Plot To Oust Anne Curry

Backstabbing and bullying were behind the booting off of Curry according to a New York Times article today that published excerpts from Brian Stelter’s soon to be released book Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV.

New reports of this Machiavellian plot might hurt the show and Matt Lauer’s reputation (ranked 6th on Star Magazine’s Most Hated Celebrities 2013) even further. The show saw a big ratings slide after the botched release of Curry from her contract and bad guys Matt Lauer and Executive Producer Jim Bell are at the center of the unwanted attention. In the book, New York Times reporter Stelter writes:

One morning-TV veteran suggested to him[Bell] that firing Curry, who had been co-hosting for only about six months at that point, would be tantamount to “killing Bambi.” Undeterred, Bell hatched a careful three-part plan: 1.) persuade Lauer to extend his expiring contract; 2.) oust Curry; 3.) replace her with Savannah Guthrie. According to this source, Bell called his plan Operation Bambi. […] (Bell denies using the term “Operation Bambi.”)

Lauer was seen as the franchise and at one point it is reported having said to an assistant, “I can’t believe I’m sitting next to her.” Allegedly Curry was promoted because the network did not want her to go to a competitor. Curry had an exit clause in her contract if she was passed over as co-host again and was upset when Meredith Viera was picked to replace Katie Couric. Lauer’s contract was up for renegotiation (renewed at a reported $25 million per year contract) and rumors of  ”no chemistry” and a possible ousting began to circulate. Lauer just didn’t like Curry, barely spoke to her off the air and even went behind the scenes to get Couric back. It was promised that if Lauer stayed, Curry would be gone. Stelter writes:

According to a source with direct knowledge of the conversation, Burke told Lauer, “We need to sign you so we can do Ann.” Burke, who had to be keenly aware of Lauer’s discomfort with Curry, was basically scratching her off his list of reservations. (As a top NBC executive said to me after the fact, “Matt’s decision guided everything else.”) Burke even offered Lauer a signing bonus of several million dollars, according to the same person, to decide swiftly.

Curry was also the victim of bullying and ridicule, telling “friends that her final months were a form of professional torture.”

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 to show 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.”

According to the New York Magazine, “In the aftermath of the Curry debacle, the show lost half a million viewers [mostly women] and ceded first place in the ratings war to ABC’s Good Morning America, losing millions of dollars overnight. How much will they lose now? Stelter says Curry is staying out of the spotlight and spending time in her Connecticut home.

She still often woke before dawn as if she were about to go on the air…Some mornings, she cried as she read e-mail and Twitter messages from fans.

Did you stop watching the Today Show after they fired Anne Curry? Let us know how you feel?