The tragic life of Meredith Vieira

If you made a list of trailblazing women in news media, your list would be incomplete with Meredith Vieira. During her illustrious career that has spanned over 35 years, the veteran journalist's resume stands above her peers, boasting credits including 60 Minutes, The View, Dateline NBC, Today, NBC Nightly NewsThe Meredith Vieira Show, and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, among others. But just because someone has a massively successful career doesn't mean it was easy. To understand what she fought through, you need to follow Vieira's story and see how these different struggles shaped her even as she brought joy to millions for decades. In fact, sometimes even the work she was doing for the public was taking a drastic toll on her own health and wellbeing. She's through the worst of it now, but it was a bumpy road to get where she is today. Here's the tragic life of Meredith Vieira.

Meredith Vieira suffered four miscarriages

In his book Chasing Hope: A Patient's Deep Dive into Stem Cells, Faith, and the FutureMeredith Vieira's husband Richard Cohen revealed that the former television personality is one of the many celebrities who have struggled to conceive a child. In fact, she suffered four miscarriages in the late '80s. During a 2019 appearance on Today with Hoda and Jenna, Vieira opened up about her experiences. "Can I tell you the funny side of my infertility?" Vieira said (via Today). "I never had trouble getting pregnant but I always had trouble holding onto pregnancies." 

After her third miscarriage, her doctor recommended that she take progesterone suppositories, but he made a simple mistake: he assumed she knew how to use them. "I'm using the suppositories and I think 'This is so weird,'" she explained. "Because it's a suppository and I assume you put this in your butt." She consulted her husband, who was just as confused, so she went back to the doctor to clear up the confusion. "He said, 'What are you talking about? They go in your vagina,'" she said. "Which I didn't know. And then I started doing that and then I did have a child."

Despite the heartbreak of those miscarriages, Vieira shared her story to help others. "For those of you going through stuff, know that I have gone through it too and it's the lighter side of infertility," she said.

Today took a toll on Meredith Vieira's health

Hosting a morning news show can be tough. You have to be hair and makeup ready by 6:00 a.m. And for Meredith Vieira, that schedule took a toll. During an interview with Good Housekeeping, she revealed that she had to be at the studio at 4:30 a.m. every day, but she was hardwired to wake up earlier than her peers so she would be prepared. 

"Matt [Lauer] would say to me, "Look, you're leaving your home around 4:30, so get up at 4." But I couldn't do that — I'm the kind of person, I have to go to check that BlackBerry," she explained, adding, "I can't go to work feeling like I am ill-prepared." In order to feel ready for the day, Vieira woke up at 2:30 a.m. every day. (R.I.P. her snooze button.)

However, that need to be prepared had enough of a physical and psychological impact that she decided to leave Today. "Sleep deprivation is a bad thing. When you're tired all the time, you just don't feel well. It's easy to gain weight; it's easy to get depressed," Vieira explained, adding, "And there's anxiety...all of those things really started to weigh on me, and I thought, 'Is it worth risking my health? I don't think so. Is it worth altering my lifestyle, particularly with my husband?' I clearly knew the answer: No, it's not."

Meredith Vieira endured an abusive relationship

During a 2014 episode of The Meredith Vieira Show, the former broadcast journalist opened up about being in an abusive relationship when she was younger. Compelled to come forward by the Twitter campaigns #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft, Vieira revealed the details of the horrific relationship and why she felt powerless to escape.

"It started out — I loved this guy — it started out when we'd have a fight and he'd just sort of grab my arm," she said, adding, "I didn't think a lot about it, and then it turned into pushing me against the wall and then it went beyond that to actually taking his hand and grabbing my face and saying, 'I could ruin your career if I wanted to and no one would want you.'"

Vieira explained that she remained in the relationship out of "fear" and "guilt" — since he would always apologize afterward. Then one night, she claims he assaulted her then threw her naked into their apartment building's hallway where she hid for two hours. Vieira eventually broke free and moved to another state. "'We didn't have shelters when this was happening to me, there was no hotline. I would say call the hotline," she said. "'So, when people talk about domestic violence it is really really a complicated issue. It's not so easy to just get away. You think it would be but it is not."

Meredith Vieira's husband suffers from MS

Meredith Vieira's husband, veteran journalist Richard Cohen, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 25. His father and grandmother also suffered from the disease in what he called "a family illness" in a 2019 interview with Yahoo Lifestyle. "I dropped a coffee pot for no reason. I fell off a curb for no reason. I noticed a little numbness in my leg," he explained. "I was very active physically and I thought I was really beating it. I was living in denial."

Cohen lived with the illness for ten years before meeting his future wife of 32 years, but he let her know immediately. "She didn't blink," he told the outlet. Although he tried to keep his diagnosis hidden from everyone else, Cohen learned that keeping it a secret was not "a happy way to live." He now speaks to others "newly diagnosed with MS" to offer practical advice and emotional support. "You don't have to be controlled by it," he said. "I look at our three kids, I look at our relationship, I've written four books ... what do I have to complain about?"

During an interview with People, Vieira explained that they deal with Cohen's "chronic illness" by being able to "vent" to one another about the "limitations" it places on their relationship, but they choose not to "dwell" on them too long. "So many people are dealing with stuff and it puts it into perspective," she explained.

Richard Cohen also battled colon cancer...twice

In addition to suffering from MS, Richard Cohen was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1999 (via ABC News). Although he went into remission after several surgeries, his cancer came back. "He went into himself like I've never seen," Meredith Vieira said. "I think he was a much angrier man. That second surgery carried with it a lot of stuff afterwards, the recovery period. He had to have a bag ... He felt humiliated."

However, after his second remission, Cohen changed his outlook and became a college lecturer, writing about his experiences, and "working for the MS Society." And despite the constant hardships they face as a couple, they found a secret weapon to help them cope: a sense of humor. "Even at the worst, right after the second colon cancer, we always found something to laugh about," Vieira said, adding, "I would kid him about. While you were in the hospital, I did purchase a black dress, just in case ... We just made jokes. And we still do. It's what gets you through."

Cohen detailed some of his life's regrets that his medical issues have taken from him in his book, Blindsided: Lifting a Life Above Illness: A Reluctant Memoir. "I will always regret that the kids never saw me as what I was," he wrote (via The New York Times), adding, "Parenthood suited me. No disease could touch that.”

Meredith Vieira helped shed light on allegations against Matt Lauer

On Nov. 29, 2017, NBC News announced the firing of the long-time Today co-anchor Matt Lauer after he allegedly sexually assaulted an NBC employee during the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 (via Page Six). According to a network insider, the alleged victim went to HR with evidence "so compelling" that NBC News completed their investigation and terminated Lauer in "fewer than 35 hours."

In his 2019 book Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators, Ronan Farrow revealed that former NBC producer Brooke Nevils was Lauer's alleged victim. Speaking on record to Farrow, Nevils revealed that she was having drinks with Vieira when Lauer joined them. Nevils then went to Lauer's hotel room where the horrific sexual assault allegedly occurred. 

Three years after the alleged assault, and in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations, Nevils told Vieira what happened. According to Farrow's book, Vieira asked, "It's Matt, isn't it?" before Nevils finished her story (via Page Six). A "distraught" Vieira then urged Nevils to go directly to HR with legal representation. Lauer was fired almost immediately. Farrow writes that Vieira "blamed herself for not doing more" for Nevils and feared Lauer had other victims. "Think of all the other women I've gotten jobs there," Vieira said to Nevils, according to the book.

Sexism was just a part of the job for Meredith Vieira

In 1991, Meredith Vieira was fired from her position as a part-time correspondent for the CBS news program 60 Minutes. So when the allegations of sexual misconduct against former CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves came to light, she was asked about her time there during the Television Critics Association's summer press tour while promoting a show for PBS.

Although Moonves joined the network four years after Vieira departed, she revealed that the culture at CBS was rife with sexism. "People know my story from CBS," she said (via Variety). "I think there was sexism for sure. I never was harassed per se, but I think it was difficult at the time on that show to navigate your way as a woman. I've never experienced harassment as a woman anywhere that I've been. Maybe they're scared of me."

Vieira declined to discuss the allegations against the disgraced CEO, which, according to Nicki Swift's previous reporting, include two decades' worth of Moonves' alleged inappropriate sexual behavior, including unwanted touching and kissing.

The Virginia Tech massacre was Meredith Vieira's first Today field assignment

On April 16, 2007, Virginia Tech undergraduate student Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people and wounded 17 others in Blacksburg, making it the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history until the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla. in 2016, and later, the Las Vegas massacre in 2017 (per CNN). In an essay published on Today to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the tragedy, Vieira shared her memories of that day. 

"I had been with Today for six months. This was my first time traveling with the rest of the team to the site of a major story," she wrote. "The next morning we were live on the university campus, trying to make sense out of something totally senseless. I kept thinking to myself, "You're a journalist. Make sure you get this right."

She wrote that she and Lauer spent the day with law enforcement officials and survivors who were "lost and confused" as the situation developed. "To point a microphone in their face and ask, 'How do you feel?' I prayed they didn't. But a part of me felt like an interloper in somebody else's tragedy." She then recalled the candlelight vigil where a young student approached her for a hug. "She said that she had watched Today for years and had grown to see us as an extension of her family. And right now she needed a mom to hold her," Vieira explained. "We embraced and cried on each other's shoulders."