Morning TV's most notorious scandals

Kelly Ripa's alleged feud with Michael Strahan may seem like a very big deal, but it's just one of many scandals that have plagued morning television over the last few decades. In fact, numerous TV personalities have fared far worse over the years. From backstabbing memos to on-air fights, here are the very worst.

Billy Bush made lewd comments with Donald Trump

Today show anchor Billy Bush was fired in 2016 following lewd comments he and Donald Trump made in a leaked video from behind the scenes of a 2005 episode of Access Hollywood.

In the clip, obtained by the The Washington Post, Bush and Trump describe making unwanted sexual advances towards women, including Access Hollywood host Nancy O'Dell, as well as discussing the appearances of other women, including Days of our Lives actress Arianne Zucker, who gave Bush and Trump a tour of the soap opera set for Access Hollywood. In the video, Bush encourages Zucker to hug Trump and makes some rude remarks about her legs (and other things.)

When the video first leaked, Bush released a statement to Page Six. "Obviously I'm embarrassed and ashamed. It's no excuse, but this happened 11 years ago—I was younger, less mature and acted foolishly in playing along," he said. "I'm very sorry."

Did Matt Lauer destroy Ann Curry's career?

On June 28, 2012, Ann Curry bid a tearful goodbye to the Today show after co-anchoring the morning news program for barely a year. Curry's awkward on-camera exit capped off a disastrous year of behind-the-scenes drama at Today, all of which was captured in a shocking 2013 cover story by New York Magazine. The piece seemingly put some of the blame for Curry's demise on her co-anchor, Matt Lauer, who reportedly did not like Curry and failed to protect her during contract renegotiations. Their tense relationship played out disastrously on camera, both during Curry's farewell speech and when the two reunited for a segment at the Olympic Games in London.

Whether directly related to the scandal or not, the Today show's ratings quickly began to erode, and by August 2012, Today's rival, Good Morning America, topped NBC's juggernaut morning program in the ratings for the first time in about 17 years, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Today has been playing catch-up ever since.

NBC stars 'banded together' against a producer

Just when you thought things couldn't get worse at Today, word got out in November 2014 that newly hired producer Jamie Horowitz had been fired after just 78 days on the job. Horowitz's termination was reportedly based around his intention to overhaul the show's personality lineup. The exact details of his plan conflict based on various reports. The Wrap said Horowitz wanted to fire Savannah Guthrie, Natalie Morales, and Willie Geist; The Hollywood Reporter said he intended to bring in Josh Elliott, formerly of Good Morning America, bump Hoda Kotb to an earlier hour and, believe it or not, remove Al Roker from his weather reporting.

Whatever the case, Horowitz's behind-the-scenes orchestrating didn't fly with Today show staffers or the network. CNN later reported that Guthrie, Morales, Matt Lauer, and others "banded together" against Horowitz, who was reportedly hired to fix Today's flailing ratings. He was later hired by Fox Sports, according to Variety.

NBC News fires Matt Lauer over sexual misconduct allegations

On Nov. 29, 2017, Americans woke up to the shocking news that Matt Lauer, a staple of the Today show for more than 20 years, had suddenly been fired by NBC News after the organization received a "detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace." The news was delivered by Lauer's co-anchor of many years, Savannah Guthrie, who herself had learned of the news just hour before the Today show aired that morning.

The complaint and Lauer's firing came on the heels of bombshell reports from Variety and the New York Times, which detailed Lauer's alleged inappropriate behavior over the years. Lauer eventually apologized for his actions in a statement released to the Today show. "There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions. To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry … " he wrote. "Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed."

Michael Strahan blindsided Kelly Ripa

In April 2016, Michael Strahan shocked audiences when he announced he was leaving Live! with Kelly and Michael to join Good Morning America in the fall. Apparently, no one was more shocked by this than Strahan's co-host, Kelly Ripa, who reportedly received the news just as the press release was being sent out by Disney, according to TMZ. Amid a sea of rumors about the show's future, Ripa failed to show up to work the next day, leaving Strahan to address his high-profile exit on his own. After a few days of radio silence, Ripa had informed her staff via email that she would eventually return to work. TMZ followed up with a report that Ripa's return to Live! came only after "tough talks" with Disney.

Ripa addressed the scandal on her first day back in a lengthy speech about respect in the workplace. As more and more rumors surfaced about Ripa and Strahan's tense relationship, Disney announced that Strahan would leave the show on May 13, 2016, four months earlier than planned. That could be a sign that Disney was trying to play nice with Ripa, who has co-hosted the show for 15 years. Ripa seemingly confirmed things were not cool between her and Strahan in a number of jaw-dropping on-air gags directed at Strahan, including one about his divorce.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8f4ir8cCZ8

Ripa was left in the dark when Regis Philbin left

Ripa's anger over Strahan's exit may have been partially fueled by a case of "deja vu." According to TMZ, Ripa's former co-host, Regis Philbin, pulled a similar stunt by telling Ripa he was retiring just 15 minutes before he made the announcement on air. At the time, Ripa was reportedly "blindsided" by the news, the same word used to describe her reaction to Strahan's departure. However, in that case, sources told TMZ Ripa wasn't actually angry.

Incidentally, Philbin came to Ripa's defense during the Strahan debacle, telling TMZ, "They should have told her in the beginning!"

Bryant Gumbel slammed Willard Scott behind his back

In 1989, a scathing memo written by Today show anchor Bryant Gumbel to executive producer Marty Ryan criticizing much of the show's on-air talent leaked to the press, putting the program at the center of a media firestorm. The press paid special attention to Gumbel's comments about weatherman Willard Scott. "[Scott is holding] the show hostage to his assortment of whims, wishes, birthdays and bad taste," Gumbel wrote (via The Los Angeles Times), later adding: "He can't leave this job and couldn't get a better one."

The memo reportedly caused a riff between Gumbel and Scott behind the scenes, which Scott confirmed in an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer. "It was horrible," Scott said of the feud in 1989. "I didn't go out for a couple of months. I didn't go to church. I didn't mingle in crowds. I got sick of hearing, 'How's Bryant?' It really was driving me crazy. I'm sure it drove him crazy, too. Unfortunately, he was the one who started it."

Scott semiretired in 1996. He continued to announce birthday wishes on Today until his official retirement in 2015. Gumbel left in 1997.

Rosie O'Donnell and Elisabeth Hasselbeck go to war

An entire article could be dedicated to the many on-air and behind-the-scenes controversies on The View, but of all the headaches, none will ever top the epic on-air fight between Rosie O'Donnell and Elisabeth Hasselbeck on May 23, 2007. Their debate over U.S. military involvement in Iraq grew so heated that O'Donnell quit the show after that episode aired. Less than a year later, O'Donnell told People magazine that she and Hasselbeck had buried the hatchet, but in 2014, Hasselbeck exhumed the beef via an Instagram post, sharing the old clip of O'Donnell's comments and noting that she still considered them indefensible.

Josh Elliott's big risk misfires

Josh Elliott became a rising star in 2012 as Good Morning America overtook Today in the ratings. But within two years, he was out at ABC after what The Hollywood Reporter describes as a "messy" exit. According to the report, Elliott was demanding $10 million annually to stay at GMA; ABC offered $5 million. Meanwhile, Page Six reported that Elliott immediately wanted George Stephanopoulos' job as co-lead anchor.

Elliott's demands were dismissed. Amid the drama, it was announced he'd be leaving ABC to join NBC Sports, where he lasted less than two years. Sources for Page Six claim Elliott and NBC mutually agreed to part ways after the network couldn't find a proper role for him. "He's being paid $5 million a year to do basically nothing," the source said.

In March 2016, Page Six reported that Elliott would become lead anchor for CBSN, CBS News' digital streaming news network, which is either a huge promotion or a crazy demotion, depending on which side of the technology debate you're on.

Fans erupted when Jane Pauley was shown the door

Months after Gumbel's memo leaked, the Today show battled more bad press amid rumors that its anchor of 13 years, Jane Pauley, was about to be ousted by the younger, blonder Deborah Norville. According to People, the rumors started in September of 1989, after Norville replaced news anchor John Palmer and began sitting at the main desk alongside Pauley and Gumbel. Months later, Pauley confirmed she was, in fact, leaving after 13 years on the show. Her final morning on Today was a tearful broadcast on Dec. 23, 1989.

Plagued by tabloid scandals and unpopularity over Pauley's ousting, Norville left Today in April 1991 after just 14 months on the job. She was replaced by Katie Couric. Incidentally, both Pauley and Norville went on to bigger and even more lucrative careers as the hosts of Dateline and Inside Edition, respectively.