The Untold Truth Of Norah O'Donnell

In 2019, viewers of the CBS Evening News were introduced to Norah O'Donnell when she was named anchor and managing editor of the esteemed nightly newscast. The role is, without a doubt, a big deal; O'Donnell's predecessors include Dan Rather, Katie Couric, Connie Chung, and the legendary Walter Cronkite. 

Of course, O'Donnell was already a familiar face to CBS viewers before she took the Evening News gig. Since 2012, she'd co-anchored the network's flagship morning show, CBS This Morning, alongside Gayle King and Charlie Rose (the latter, it should be noted, was fired in 2017 after being hit with a busload of sexual harassment allegations). Prior to the morning show, O'Donnell's years of experience as CBS News' White House correspondent had left her well prepared for her high-profile new gig, having covered every U.S. presidential election since 2000 and winning two Emmys along the way. As viewers already know, O'Donnell is also an experienced interviewer, having conversed with a who's who of newsmakers ranging from Prince Harry to the Dalai Lama.

Given that she's been a fixture on national television for decades, it would be easy for viewers to assume they know this talented and accomplished journalist pretty well. But read on to discover just how much more there is to learn. Let's get into the untold truth of Norah O'Donnell. 

Norah O'Donnell learned from news icons

According to Norah O'Donnell's CBS bio, before joining that network she spent a decade at another one, NBC. It was there, she revealed in an interview with CBS Watch, that she got to know the late Tim Russert, NBC News' senior vice president, Washington bureau chief, and longtime moderator of Meet the Press. O'Donnell recalled running into Russert in hallways. "He would always say, 'What do you know?' It'd be 7:30 a.m. and I'd be sitting in the car outside the D.C. bureau, dialing up my sources in case I ran into Tim so I'd have something to say." Russert, she explained, "taught me that every day you have to bring value to the table."

Other mentors who helped her throughout her career include ABC News' Ann Compton, who recommended she "get a Rolodex" so she could organize all of the contacts she makes. NBC News' Andrea Mitchell told her "outworking the competition" is a key to success. And there was CBS News' Bob Schieffer, who briefly served in her future role when he became interim anchor of CBS Evening News after Dan Rather's 2005 departure. She described Schieffer as "one of the most important mentors in my entire career. He took me under his wing and taught me the importance of being a great storyteller." 

There are screen time rules in Norah O'Donnell's home

In addition to being a network news anchor and veteran journalist, Norah O'Donnell is also the mother of three. And even though she's a famous person, she still faces normal parenting hurdles. As she told CBS Watch, she tends to run a tight ship when it comes to how much time her kids spend staring at their phones or playing video games. 

Revealing that she limits how much time her children spend staring at screens, O'Donnell described kids' screen addiction as "the number one issue affecting most parents, and it has to do with the health and well-being of their children." As a result, she and her husband, chef and restaurant owner Geoff Tracy, have laid down some rules. "No phones after 8:30 p.m. or at breakfast, lunch, or dinner," she declared. She and her husband also don't allow their kids to use phones when they're in the car, as well as anytime "we're in a family environment... because you have to talk to one another."

In fact, she also revealed that her home is outfitted with technology that shuts down her kids' phones at a predetermined time, noting that "they're allowed to text us, but it shuts off everything else."

There's nothing peanut-better than this piece of advice

Having worked with so many veteran broadcast journalists, it's a no-brainer that Norah O'Donnell has picked up a lot of guidance during the course of her career. Yet there's one piece of advice she holds high above all others. This particular instruction, however, did not come from one of her network news mentors. It came from her mom. "If I got tired, my mom would always say: 'Have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and take a nap. It will be better when you get up,'" she told CBS Watch when asked for the best advice she's ever received. 

Meanwhile, it was a seemingly innocuous question that led her to take stock of where here work-life balance was at. She recalled sitting next to a colleague at a wedding when he asked, "How are you doing?" In her response, she discussed her job and her kids, until he interrupted to clarify. "No, I've asked you, 'How are you doing?'"

This, she explained, "was a profound lightbulb moment that I was not talking about myself. Your work and family define you, which is important but not the same." 

Donald Trump challenged Norah O'Donnell's interview

In May 2020, Norah O'Donnell interviewed White House whistleblower Dr. Rick Bright for a 60 Minutes segment after Bright — an immunologist at the Department of Health and Human Services — filed a formal complaint alleging he'd been fired for refusing to get behind a government-led effort to promote the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19. 

As Deadline noted, her report was viewed by one particularly heavy consumer of television news: President Donald J. Trump, who did what he normally does whenever something on TV irks him. Yes, he tweeted. Dissing O'Donnell's ratings ("third place anchor"), Trump accused her and 60 Minutes of "doing everything in their power to demean our Country, much to the benefit of the Radical Left Democrats." He blasted Bright as a "disgruntled employee who supports Dems, fabricates stories and spews lies."

Appearing on The Late Show, host Stephen Colbert asked O'Donnell to share her thoughts about becoming the target of one of Trump's infamous Twitter attacks. "It doesn't bother me if I know we have our facts straight," she said, declaring "it was a pretty rock-solid story."

Running fuels Norah O'Donnell's journalistic stamina

Norah O'Donnell has long been an advocate of physical fitness, something she outlined in detail for an interview with Runner's World. According to O'Donnell, she started running track when she was 13, and running has remained her favorite form of exercise. 

However, she admitted that juggling her career and family has presented challenges in maintaining her regimen. "As a working mom, I struggle to find time to work out and go for runs," she said. "I usually run two to three times a week and work out with a trainer once a week." In fact, she credited running for providing her with added "endurance," which she said was important for her job given that "there can be some really long days in journalism."

Asked if she uses her time while running to "prepare for an interview" or go over a story, she insisted she did not. "I pretty much focus on running," she explained. "I'm listening to music, enjoying where I'm running. I spend so much time at work that I try and enjoy the run for what it is and try and be in the moment."

A medical issue broke Norah O'Donnell's spring break

Every once in awhile, health issues can arise at the most inopportune moments, regardless of a person's level of wellness and physical fitness. Such was the case for Norah O'Donnell in March 2019. That was when a spring break vacation with her family hit the skids after she wound up in a South Carolina hospital to undergo emergency surgery. In series of messages she shared via Instagram Story, reported People, O'Donnell wrote that she was awaiting surgery "to remove appendix before it ruptured." Having an organ removed, she admitted, wasn't exactly "what we planned for Spring Break." 

The surgery was successful. Afterward, O'Donnell's husband, chef Geoff Tracy, took to Twitter to let everyone know that she "lost her appendix today," undergoing a laparoscopic appendectomy. Admitting he "was so worried," Tracy praised his wife for being "stronger than steel" while declaring the whole family had experienced "a Spring Break to remember." 

"I am down an organ," O'Donnell wrote on Instagram, "but learned some valuable lessons this week." One of those lessons? "Listen to your body. If you are in pain, see a doctor. Don't wait 5 days like I did ignoring pain." Duly noted.

No, Gayle King and Norah O'Donnell don't have 'beef'

It's an interesting phenomenon in tabloid journalism that whenever two women are partnered on television, unverified reports often emerge that they're at each other's throats the second the cameras turn off. Sure enough, a report in Page Six claimed Gayle King was pushing CBS This Morning co-host Norah O'Donnell off the show, with a so-called "insider" calling O'Donnell "toxic." CBS News president Susan Zirinsky responded by blasting the story as "offensive and 100 percent false."

A few days later on CBS This Morning, King announced that O'Donnell actually was leaving the show — but only because she'd been promoted to anchor CBS Evening News. At one point, King told viewers, "I know I'm supposed to stick to the script," but then took a moment to comment. "It's so amazing to me, Norah, that after seven years together that now people would say that you and I have some beef," she said. "I have no beef with you. You have no beef with me."

That same night, the two attended an award gala together, where King was asked by Entertainment Tonight why the media had embraced the rumor. "'Cause we're women, that's why," she said. "This never happens to men."

Norah O'Donnell's new gig came with a new salary

When Norah O'Donnell made the jump from CBS This Morning to CBS Evening News, she also experienced a hefty upgrade to her salary. According to a report in Page Six, O'Donnell had been "lobbying to get the gig" even before the previous anchor, Jeff Glor, was hired in the fall of 2017. Page Six estimated O'Donnell's new annual salary as being somewhere between $7 million and $8 million. This represented a big increase over what she'd been earning on the morning show, which Page Six reported was somewhere in the range of $5 million per year.

However, The Hollywood Reporter estimated that — financially, at least — the big winner in the CBS News staff shakeup wasn't O'Donnell, but Gayle King. As THR reported, sources claimed that O'Donnell's former CBS This Morning co-host landed a far richer deal after O'Donnell's move, reportedly receiving a raise that would see her earn $11 million a year. Yes, their salaries may be a few million dollars apart. But worry not, for they don't have beef with one another in their hearts. 

In any case, O'Donnell has done quite well for herself. The Celebrity Net Worth website estimates that she's worth $18 million. 

Norah O'Donnell's melanoma battle was a 'scary chapter'

In 2017, Norah O'Donnell went public with a health scare she'd experienced. In a feature she wrote for Good Housekeeping, O'Donnell detailed how, after undergoing a routine but oft-delayed skin check, she received a message from her doctor that the results of a biopsy were in, and "we need to talk." Her anxiety escalated before she finally spoke to her dermatologist. "Your biopsy came back," the doctor told her. "It's melanoma."

O'Donnell admitted she was stunned by the news, but her doctor offered an assurance that "we caught it early, and it's 100-percent curable." However, the doctor also indicated she wanted to operate "as soon as possible."

The surgery, O'Donnell wrote, went well, and involved slicing "a three-inch-long piece of skin from the upper left corner" of her back. The operation left a scar, but she explained she had chosen "to see it not as something ugly, but as a reminder that early detection saves lives — it might even have saved mine. And while the scar represents the end of a scary chapter in my life, it also marks the beginning of a new wellness journey."

Norah O'Donnell's spouse closed eateries during COVID-19

Norah O'Donnell is married to Geoff Tracy, a chef and owner of several restaurants in the Washington, D.C. area. The arrival of the global pandemic in the early part of 2020 proved to be devastating to the hospitality industry, and Tracy's restaurants were not immune. "He shut down some of the restaurants," O'Donnell shared in The Hollywood Reporter. "He kept two open that are in neighborhoods, the ones not really around businesses," she said, noting that the restaurants were just doing takeout meals. "He's just trying to be creative every day."

As Tracy told WUSA9, he was initially forced to lay off his entire staff of 300. However, he was able to rehire 15 of them for the community pantry he set up, selling household items such as toilet paper and bleach along with fruit, pasta, milk, and snacks, with proceeds going entirely to staff. "If I buy a roll of toilet paper for 50 cents, they sell it for $1 and keep the profit," he explained, jokingly admitting that he "never thought I'd be selling Cheez-Its to keep the lights on."

A trip to the grocery store left Norah O'Donnell in tears

For many people who visit a supermarket on a regular basis, the experience isn't a particularly emotional one. Yet a trip to the grocery store during the COVID-19 outbreak wound up leaving Norah O'Donnell in tears. "I started to choke up and cry to the woman who was checking out groceries," O'Donnell told WSJ, describing her feelings about the everyday bravery evinced by frontline workers during the coronavirus pandemic. "I was so scared to go to the grocery store, and then I felt this overwhelming sense of gratitude and the need to tell her."

O'Donnell has also opened up about what her life was like in the midst of the pandemic. "Each day is starting to feel a little bit like Groundhog Day," she joked in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. However, she got serious to admit she's "worried about people — people's health and the people losing their jobs. I do think it helps to be focused on the role that those of us in the broadcast media can fill — a public service, working alongside public health officials in helping to share information that hopefully saves lives."

When speaking with Parade about what it's like working as a reporter during a pandemic, she said it's "unlike any story I've ever covered" and that she's "never been so proud to be a journalist."