The untold truth of Katie Couric

Journalist and author Katie Couric has been a ubiquitous presence on TV screens nationwide since joining NBC News in 1989. Since then, she's gone on to appear as a host on NBC's Today show, CBS Evening News (as the first ever solo female anchor of the show), 60 MinutesABC News, and Yahoo! News, among numerous other ventures in TV and film. With such a prolific career, it's not surprising that Couric has seen her fair share of highs, lows, and lots of drama. But what about the lesser-known details of this news icon's life and career? Let's dive in.

At one point, she was the world's highest paid journalist

In 2002 Couric signed a $65 million deal with NBC to extend her contract with the network for four and a half years. Her $15 million per year take-home haul made her the highest salaried female news employee in history, at least until Megyn Kelly's reported $15 to $20 million a year deal with NBC in 2017.

Couric's ginormous total NBC salary also earned her the title of "world's highest paid TV personality" for a brief period. However, as Forbes reported in November 2017, in recent years she's since been eclipsed by the likes of Ellen Degeneres and Dr. Phil.

She reportedly had a rivalry with Diane Sawyer

In August 2014, the publication of journalist Sheila Weller's book The News Sorority set tongues wagging by stoking the flames of a long-rumored duel between Couric and fellow groundbreaking female journalist Diane Sawyer. In her book, Weller claimed to know of an unremitting rivalry between Couric and Sawyer, who hosted rival morning show Good Morning America from 1999 to 2009. 

According to an article on The Daily Beast, which reprinted some of the book's allegations, the two often battled over booking guests: "When a friend of Diane's, a public figure, was being pursued by Katie's people, the wooed eminence got a call from [Diane's husband, the famed director] Mike Nichols, who said — in a very nice way, to be sure — that he and Diane would essentially cut off all social contact if their friend appeared on Today."

Additionally, Wellers writes that when Sawyer scored an interview with a 57-year-old new mom of twins, Couric was heard to wonder aloud, "I wonder who she b*** this time to get it." According to Adweek, neither Sawyer or Couric granted Wellers an interview for the book, and neither has ever publicly responded to the book's provocative claims. 

She also reportedly didn't get along with Bryant Gumbel

When Couric's Today co-host Bryant Gumbel left his spot on the show in 1997, rumors of a feud between he and Couric quickly spread. Couric got things going when she told George Magazine (via E!) shortly after Gumbel's departure that, "There was a lot of creative tension. Well, there was a lot of tension. I don't know how creative it was." Sounds…fun?

Gumbel then went on to obliquely disparage Couric to the New York Times Magazinetelling the outlet that, "Somebody who shall remain nameless went through five [assistants] in five years. I had one makeup and hair person the whole time I was at NBC. Somebody who shall remain nameless went through three or four." 

All roads led back to Couric, as a source from Today explained to the Times about the pair's working relationship for the same article"There were some Academy Award-winning performances by both of them… I don't think either one of them wanted to spend one minute together."

In a 2002 interview, Gumbel explained to ABC that the rumored feud was nothing more than the normal strains that come from two very different people working together, saying, "We saw things in different ways. What sometimes she thought was funny, I would think was not; what I thought was funny, she thought was juvenile. We got along for television purposes, and off the air we got along, but we weren't particularly close."

Whatever the case, the former co-hosts were able to set their differences aside to appear in a 2015 Super Bowl commercial for BMW

Her infamous Palin interview might've impacted the 2008 election

One of the 2008 presidential election's most memorable moments was Couric's September interview that year with then-Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin for CBS. Perhaps nothing garnered more attention than the moment when Couric asked Palin what newspapers and magazines she read. Palin first attempted to evade the question, and when Couric pressed, her answer was, "Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me all these years."

Palin's interview was quickly slammed by political analysts; CNN commentator Jack Cafferty called it "one of the most pathetic tapes I have ever seen from someone aspiring to one of the highest offices in this country." And the incident may have had far-reaching consequences for presidential nominee John McCain's campaign, which, as we all know, was ultimately unsuccessful. Author Geoffrey Dunn later noted that the exchange resulted in a serious dip in Palin's popularity, writing (via a book excerpt on The Huffington Post), "whatever propellant Palin had brought to the McCain ticket had become an unequivocal anchor…The numbers suddenly turned strongly against her, never to return." 

Reminiscing during a June 2012 Watch What Happens Live appearance, Couric explained to Andy Cohen that she felt the political impact was most felt from independent voters who ultimately turned against the McCain/Palin ticket in the wake of the embarrassing interview, though she also admitted that she "really felt bad" for Palin at the time. 

The Tonight Show objectified her "famous" legs

Back in the early 2000s, Couric augmented her hosting career by trading places with Jay Leno to host The Tonight Show, while Leno took her spot on the Today show for a day too. According to a New York Post article published just after her May 14, 2003 air date, Couric garnered Monday night ratings that were 40 percent higher than Leno's that season. 

The ratings bump was a great achievement that some may feel was slightly undercut by the fact that The Tonight Show really capitalized on Couric's looks, with The Los Angeles Times noting that the front of Leno's desk had been removed to display her (weirdly much discussed) legs. 

It's safe to say that Leno didn't have to show any skin on the Today show. 

She used to tease Ann Curry about her clothes

In the wake of Ann Curry's controversial dismissal from the Today show in 2012, a number of outlets were buzzing about the internal discord between the show's co-anchors. One report that came to light was that, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Couric would tease Curry about her clothing choices, "but Curry took those remarks 'badly.'" Well, to be fair to Curry, who wouldn't? 

Remember that Sheila Weller book, The News SororityIt also had something to say about Couric's treatment of Curry: "Katie often threw Ann off balance by criticizing Ann's clothing choices just before they went on air." Weller also quoted an insider who said, "Katie was a bully and Ann was the victim." Yikes.

She caught a reputation for being a diva at The Today Show

A scathing 2005 New York Times article portrayed Couric's behavior during her tenure at Today as fairly diva-esque, noting the "strained chemistry" between the co-hosts and claiming that the show had "turned [Couric's] popularity into a Marxist-style cult of personality." 

In a 2005 profile of the Today show for The New Yorkerwriter Ken Auletta also noted that some of Couric's coworkers had anonymously complained that she was self-absorbed and tried to hog "the best interviews." Auletta also described how Couric's manner with staff could be blunt, recounting the claims of a Today staffer: "In the morning, when the anchors go over the copy and make last-minute changes, Couric doesn't say, 'Hey, guys, think we can change this?' Instead, she says, 'This sucks!' Everyone hears it."

Of the New York Times piece, a source from the show told New York Magazine"Some people thought it was a good thing, because she had to confront [her behavior]."

In the same New Yorker article, Couric responded directly to the claims about her on-set reputation, saying, "I feel like a human piñata. The disappointing thing is no candy is going to spill out!…This may not be a lot of fun, but it goes with the territory, unfortunately, of being successful and female, probably."

Her transition to CBS News wasn't exactly smooth

Rumors of uncomfortable working conditions followed Couric from Today to her new gig as nightly anchor on CBS News in 2006. According to a 2011 New York Times article upon her departure from CBS after a five year stint, her reception at the new network was chilly. Former news correspondent Judy Muller told the Times, "Her hiring has often been described as a Hail Mary pass…I think it was much more akin to throwing a grenade. In an effort to try to create something completely new, CBS management just blew up the place."

According to the Times piece, dissension in the ranks started early as CBS staffers felt Couric was "haughty." An in-depth 2007 New York Magazine piece detailed that the five-person team that accompanied Couric to the new job rankled her new coworkers, some of whom also reportedly resented her "celebrity journalist" status and her gigantic $15 million a year salary, all while others at CBS were being laid off.

She was accused of plagiarism

Another source of drama for Couric during her tenure at CBS was a 2007 incident when an online video essay by Couric was revealed to be almost entirely plagiarized. According to Reuters, a "Katie Couric's Notebook" piece about "the virtues of libraries" was discovered to contain sections that had been lifted, word-for-word, from a column in the Wall Street Journal by Jeffrey Zaslow titled "Of the Places You'll Go, Is The Library Still One of Them?"

The producer for the piece was quickly fired, while Couric denied any previous knowledge that the piece wasn't all-original.

She denounced her former co-host Matt Lauer...eventually

It took over a month, but Couric finally commented publicly on the multiple disturbing accusations of sexual harassment and assault against her former Today co-host Matt Laurer in January 2018. 

Couric described to People how "painful" the whole experience had been for her, and denied that she'd had any knowledge about Laurer's alleged predatory behavior when they worked together. She continued, "I think I speak for many of my former colleagues when I say this was not the Matt we knew. Matt was a kind and generous colleague who treated me with respect. In fact, a joke I once made on late-night television was just that, because it was completely contrary to our brother-sister relationship."

Couric's was referring to a now-infamous comment she made to Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens Live in 2012 about Lauer's most annoying habit, saying, "He pinches me on the a** a lot." Ew.

She got involved in a vaccine controversy

Couric hosted her own short-lived daytime talk show, ABC's Katie, from 2012 to 2014, and a December 2013 segment on the HPV vaccine found her embroiled in quite a bit of controversy. According to Time, the segment, titled "The HPV-vaccine controversy," focused on two mothers who claimed that the vaccine had seriously harmed their daughters. But it gave comparatively little focus to the vaccine's potential value in cancer prevention. And, as CBS News reported, after the airing, "[e]xperts were quick to point out that scientific evidence didn't jibe with the opinions from Couric's guests."

Couric received especially harsh criticism that she hadn't fairly presented current research around the numerous benefits of the vaccine, and instead was promoting an anti-vaccine agenda. She eventually responded to the outcry via an essay for The Huffington Post, where she reflected on the segment, "We simply spent too much time on the serious adverse events that have been reported in very rare cases following the vaccine. More emphasis should have been given to the safety and efficacy of the HPV vaccines…my personal view is that the benefits of the HPV vaccine far outweigh its risks."

Her gun violence documentary also courted controversy

In 2016, Couric produced and narrated a documentary, Under the Gun, which also elicited criticism over its use of heavy editing and Couric's alleged complicity in mishandling the portrayal of her subjects. As Forbes describes, during a tense scene with members of Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), a gun rights activist group, Couric asked, "If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?" 

According to a defamation lawsuit members of VCDL later filed, the film appeared to show them sitting in befuddled silence for eight seconds in response to Couric's hard hitting question, but in reality, they'd responded right away. Couric later apologized via a statement on the documentary's website

"VCDL members have a right for their answers to be shared and so we have posted a transcript of their responses here. I regret that those eight seconds were misleading and that I did not raise my initial concerns more vigorously."

She broadcast her own mammogram and colonoscopy

After Couric's first husband Jay Monahan tragically died in 1998 from colon cancer at the age of 42, she became a vocal supporter for cancer screening and research, working to draw attention to the disease.

In 2000, she famously got a colonoscopy on air on the Today Show, in order to encourage viewers to get screened for colon cancer and remove some of the stigma around the procedure. According to CBS News, Couric's on-air procedure resulted in an uptick in people undergoing the procedure, which was dubbed "the Couric effect." In 2005, she received a mammogram on air in the hopes of bringing the same awareness to breast cancer. Per PeopleCouric joked at the end of the segment, "And next month, a Pap smear –- just kidding."

Couric continues to advocate for more awareness around preventative measures to fight cancer, writing in a moving 2013 essay for The Huffington Post, "If we had been educated about…symptoms, and had Jay been tested, he might be alive today. That's why, after his tragic and premature death, I have made it my mission to talk to anyone who will listen about screening, prevention, and early detection."

She hosted a cooking show with her husband

Let's end things on a happier note. Along with her various hosting gigs and a podcast, Couric hosted two seasons of an online cooking show, "Full Plate with Katie and John," with her second husband John Molner in 2017. In each episode, they teamed up with Sur La Table chef Joel Gamoran to prepare a healthy dish for a weeknight dinner.

As she described in an interview with Bon Appetit, Couric's foray into food isn't too far afield, as she has numerous connections in the culinary world as a result of her stint on Today. She also credits some of her popularity to the fact that she's never followed a strict diet, telling the food mag, "I think one of the reasons people related to me is I wasn't perfect. I didn't look like a Barbie doll… I didn't really obsess too much about that and I think the fact that I wasn't super glamorous made me much more relatable."