The Shady Side Of Katie Couric

Katie Couric has enjoyed a prolific and groundbreaking career. After signing with NBC, she broke into the highly competitive — and male-dominated — world of TV news in 1989. In 2006, she made network television history as the first-ever solo female anchor of a nightly news show when she landed the prime spot on "CBS Evening News" following Dan Rather's retirement, per

Couric broke through the glass ceiling yet again in March 2021 when she became the first female guest host of the long-running quiz show "Jeopardy." Despite her years of experience appearing on various TV shows, Couric admitted she was "a nervous wreck" before the cameras started rolling. "There are a lot of moving parts behind the scenes, things you need to figure out," she told People. "It's complicated! It requires a lot of multitasking."

What Couric is probably best known for is her 15-year stint on the "Today" show. Per "Entertainment Tonight," she co-hosted the popular morning news show with Bryant Gumbel from 1991 to 1997. But the co-host chemistry really started flowing after she paired up with Gumbel's replacement, Matt Lauer, who later lost Couric's friendship after he was accused of sexual misconduct, per "Today." Couric's toothy grin, sweet charm, and quick wit made her one of the "Today" show's all-time fan favorites. Behind the scenes, however, she has made her fair share of frenemies and foes over the years. To find out why, we're going behind the smile and delving into the shady side of Katie Couric.

Her Matt Lauer sex scandal backtrack

When Matt Lauer joined "Today" in 1997, he immediately hit it off with Katie Couric, who once told People that they had "undeniable chemistry." She was even front and center at Lauer's 2008 cringe-fest roast, described as "3 hours of dick jokes" by The Village Voice.

However, when Variety reported in 2017 that Lauer had been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women, everything changed. Initially, Couric supported her former colleague. "It's been a very painful time for a lot of people who worked with Matt, knew him, really care about him, and who never witnessed or experienced any of this behavior," she said on "The Wendy Williams Show" in 2018. While she made it clear that she wasn't privy to the full story, she added, "I can only talk about my personal experience, and I was always treated respectfully and appropriately."

But in the immediate wake of Lauer's firing, a 2012 "Watch What Happens Live" clip had resurfaced of Couric claiming that "[Lauer] pinches me on the a** a lot." She clarified the remark during a 2018 "Watch What Happens Live" appearance. "It was totally a joke," she insisted. "But I was really sorry I had made that joke." Couric's support of Lauer waned as more details of his alleged misconduct emerged, and she eventually cut him off completely. "We have no relationship," she revealed in a 2021 "Today" interview, explaining that it had become "harder and harder for me to reconcile [Lauer's] two sides."

Inside Katie Couric's rivalry with Diane Sawyer

Competition between reporters has always been intense in the news industry, especially in broadcast TV, where visibility is higher than in the print world. So it's no surprise Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer experienced bouts of bitter clashing. The two women were equally ambitious, and both had their eye on the same prize: to anchor a nightly news show.

Per New York Magazine, the anchors were pitted directly against each other, with Couric co-hosting "Today" and Sawyer its rival, "Good Morning America." Meanwhile, their respective networks, NBC and ABC, continually jockeyed for the ratings' top spot, so they were under intense pressure as their shows' popularity fluctuated. Sawyer had gained a reputation as "the Ice Queen," while Couric was known as "America's sweetheart." However, the sweetheart was a pro at playing the shade game.

Couric and Sawyer battled fiercely against each other to land interviews, and when Sawyer won one particular fight, Couric was not a gracious loser. While speaking to The Cut in 2021, Couric admitted to saying of her rival, "I wonder who she had to blow to get that [story]." She ultimately bested Sawyer in a big way when she became the "CBS Evening News" anchor in 2006, a first for a woman. But despite all their professional feuding, the two women still respected each other. "They did Philanthropy together. They were at events together. After hours they were totally fine," Sheila Weller, author of "The News Sorority," told "Inside Edition."

The anchor's plagiarism scandal

Katie Couric was at the center of a plagiarism scandal in 2007. However, per The New York Sun, the plagiarizer was actually Melissa McNamara, a producer and ghostwriter of video essays for Couric. CBS News announced McNamara had been fired after the network discovered that she'd copied vast chunks of a Wall Street Journal article. "We were horrified," spokesperson Sandy Genelius stated, per "Today." "It was almost verbatim."

Per Reuters, CBS was quick to defend their star anchor's journalistic integrity, insisting Couric "was stunned, and very upset" by the incident. The ghostwritten essays were for "Katie Couric's Notebook," a weekly minute-long video segment read in the first person. According to Genelius, Couric always attended meetings determining content for the videos. She insisted that although ghostwriters scripted the majority of the essays, "Couric does write some of them herself."

Couric didn't release a statement of her own regarding the incident or publicly discuss it. However, plenty of others had a lot to say on the subject. The prominent bone of contention was Couric reading supposed first-person accounts that had actually been written by somebody else. Journalist Timothy Noah drew attention to the satirical aspect of the scandal. "I'm hardly the first to point out the risible irony in CBS News firing Web producer Melissa McNamara for passing off as her own work a commentary she ghosted for Katie Couric that borrowed extensively from a March 15 Wall Street Journal column by Jeffrey Zaslow," he wrote in an article for Slate.

Katie Couric's HPV vaccine controversy

Katie Couric came under fire in December 2013 for potentially engaging in fearmongering over the use of vaccines. The controversy stemmed from a segment about the HPV vaccine on an episode of her now-canceled daytime talk show, "Katie." As per Forbes, HPV is "an infection that causes cervical, throat, penile and anal cancers." The primary HPV vaccine available in the USA is called Gardasil.

During the "Big Conversation" segment of the "Katie" episode in question, Couric interviewed three women, all of whom had horror stories about Gardasil. One young woman and her mom talked about how they feared she would die after suffering what they believed were adverse effects of the vaccine. The third woman said her daughter did die and claimed Gardasil was responsible for her death. Following the episode, Time ran an article titled "Is Katie Couric the new Jenny McCarthy?" "This kind of coverage is so incredibly irresponsible," Seth Mnookin, who wrote a book about the anti-vaxxer movement and autism, told the outlet.

Couric quickly backpedaled and issued a mea culpa. "There was criticism that the program was too anti-vaccine and anti-science, and in retrospect, some of that criticism was valid," Couric admitted in a post she wrote for HuffPost. "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."

Her Jerry Cipriano slap attack

Katie Couric was back in the headlines for all the wrong reasons in 2007. Less than a year into her tenure as the "CBS Evening News" anchor, she was feeling the pressure. Viewing figures had initially skyrocketed after she took over from Dan Rather, but within months, they started to free-fall. According to The New York Times, ratings plummeted so low that they led to talks about ending Couric's $15 million a year contract before the agreed-upon five-year period.

As the strain intensified, Couric began lashing out — literally. "COURIC 'SLAPPED' STAFFER," a Drudge Report headline screamed (via AdWeek). Apparently, the slap attack had been sparked by Jerry Cipriano using the word "sputum" during a tuberculosis report. Couric reportedly hated the word so much "she began slapping him over and over and over again on the arm."

Couric admitted she had been angry and that she did slap Cipriano — but claimed the incident had been blown out of proportion. "I sort of slapped him around," she told New York Magazine. "I got mad at him and said, 'You can't do this to me. You have to tell me when you're going to use a word like that.' I was aggravated; there's no question about that." While she insisted that the incident hadn't affected their ongoing relationship in any way, it did lead to a new workplace policy. "We did ban the word sputum from all future broadcasts," Couric shared. "It became kind of a joke."

Katie Couric was plagued by diva allegations

Katie Couric won the hearts of morning viewers with her perky personality and goofy grin. However, off-camera, she reportedly wasn't perceived so warmly. During her time on "Today," Couric battled an avalanche of "diva" allegations. "Lately her image has grown downright scary: America's girl next door has morphed into the mercurial diva down the hall," The New York Times wrote. "At the first sound of her peremptory voice and clickety stiletto heels, people dart behind doors and douse the lights."

A Globe headline (via Salon) blasted, "Katie Couric: TV's Queen of Mean! Stabs Matt Lauer in Back. Throws Temper Tantrums on Set. Makes Own Staff Cry," while The New Yorker claimed, "Some people who have worked with her have complained — always anonymously — that she can be self-absorbed, that she tries to hog the best interviews, and that she doesn't prepare the way Lauer does."

As the reports escalated, Couric was forced to address them. "I feel like a human piñata. The disappointing thing is no candy is going to spill out!" She told The New Yorker. "This may not be a lot of fun, but it goes with the territory, unfortunately, of being successful and female, probably." In an interview with AARP the Magazine (via Tampa Bay Times), she admitted the allegations were hurtful — and often not true. "There's been a lot of completely bogus stuff written about me," she said. "That's been tough for me as a journalist."

The Today star was accused of bullying Ann Curry

During the "Today" show's heyday, its cast was portrayed as "America's First Family." However, behind the scenes, there was tension, backstabbing, and alleged bullying. Ann Curry was reportedly on the receiving end, and Katie Couric was claimed to be the perpetrator. At the time, Couric was co-hosting alongside Matt Lauer, while Curry and Al Roker were reporting correspondents. According to a 2013 New York Magazine report, Couric would frequently "tease" Curry about her outfits, which she "took badly."

"As a person from ABC always heard it from friends at NBC, 'Katie was a bully, and Ann was the victim,'" Sheila Weller wrote in "The News Sorority." Weller alleged that Couric purposely dissed Curry's clothing choices just before going live on air so she'd be "off balance" when the cameras started rolling. As per The Village Voice, Couric squeezed a gibe in at Curry's expense during Matt Lauer's roast in 2008. During a David Letterman-inspired "Top 10" countdown, Couric quipped, "He loves to eat Curry." The audience found it hilarious, while Curry reportedly "blanched." 

However, a source close to Couric shot down Weller's allegations about the anchor and two of her peers, Diane Sawyer and Christiane Amanpour. "[She's] relying on classic anti-feminist caricatures, tabloid-like misrepresentations and outright falsehoods about these three extraordinary women," the source told the Daily News.

Did she sabotage Ashleigh Banfield's career?

Ashleigh Banfield also allegedly encountered the shady side of Katie Couric. According to the Daily Mail, Couric "humiliated" Banfield during the 2000 Olympics. A source claims Couric made Banfield "wait outside" as she interviewed Michael Johnson, despite both reporters being granted access. Couric allegedly then insisted that her daughter go next — to interview Johnson for her school paper. When it was finally Banfield's turn, the interview was "cut short" after she mentioned "performance-enhancing drugs," a subject deemed "off-topic" by the athlete and the "Today" show. The source claims Couric later used the incident "to trash" her colleague to others at NBC.

Banfield admitted that she's wondered over the years if Couric sabotaged her career, saying that it "just derailed so quickly with no explanation" while speaking to TMZ in October 2021. Banfield told the outlet that she's baffled as to why NBC dumped her when her career was skyrocketing. "To have them unceremoniously ditch me, it broke my heart, it broke my soul," she said. When asked if she believed Couric had felt threatened by her, she admitted, "I'll say this. I got a sense, yeah."

Couric claimed in a "Today" show interview that she's "mentored scores of women," and she vehemently denied ever trying to derail anybody's career. However, she admitted that she could have "shown people the ropes a little bit more," adding, "But when people are outwardly vying for your job, it is hard to be generous."

Katie Couric was sued for defamation over a documentary

In 2016, Katie Couric faced another controversy that resulted in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit. Attorneys took aim at a documentary she narrated and produced. "Under the Gun" questioned federal gun laws following the Sandy Hook massacre, per IMDb. Challenging the Second Amendment inevitably results in a wave of backlash from the NRA and its supporters — but Couric was hit by a tsunami.

Per NPR, the documentary team was accused of misrepresentation and "manipulative editing." The complaint focused on an interview with the Virginia Citizens Defense League. "If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?" Couric asks. According to Forbes, the VCDL members are portrayed "as speechless and apparently unable to answer the question for about eight or nine seconds." However, according to the group's $12 million defamation lawsuit, audio of the interview proved that they "immediately" responded to Couric and spoke for "nearly six minutes."

Ultimately, a judge ruled to dismiss the lawsuit, per The Hollywood Reporter, and Couric took to the documentary's website to say #sorrynotsorry. "I take responsibility for a decision that misrepresented an exchange I had with [the VCDL]," she wrote. Couric said she'd been told the silence was added for "dramatic effect" and to provide pause for viewers to think. "I hope we can continue to have an important conversation about reducing gun deaths in America, a goal I believe we can all agree on," she concluded — ever the optimist.

Inside her Ruth Bader Ginsburg cover-up controversy

Katie Couric was back under the shade spotlight in October 2021 after revealing in her tea-spilling memoir "Going There" that she'd withheld comments Ruth Bader Ginsburg made during a 2016 Yahoo! News interview. Couric insisted she'd made the omissions to "protect" the late, great Supreme Court Judge, who shared her personal opinion of NFL players taking a knee to protest racial inequality and injustice. "If they want to be stupid, there's no law that should be preventative," Ginsburg said. "If they want to be arrogant, there's no law that prevents them from that."

However, per the Daily Mail, Couric cut Ginsburg's comment that the athletes were "showing contempt for their government, one which has made it possible for them and their families to live a far better life than they could have enjoyed in the places their ancestors came from." Ginsburg later apologized for her remarks, saying they "were inappropriately dismissive and harsh," per The Washington Post. "I should have declined to respond," she added.

Media outlets mauled Couric over her actions and subsequent revelation, with the Daily Beast claiming that her "RBG Coverup Shows How We Ended Up With Trump." Couric explained her omission decision during a "Today" interview. "What people don't realize is we make editorial decisions like that all the time," she said. "What I wish I had done is asked a follow-up to clarify [some of the omitted comments]."

Katie Couric replaced Deborah Norville while she was on maternity leave

Another of Katie Couric's alleged rivalries was with Deborah Norville. Couric had started working on the "Today" show in 1989 as a national news correspondent. According to The Cut, when ratings began to falter, the eager upstart seemingly seized the opportunity to usurp Norville. Couric officially took over Norville's co-hosting seat in 1991. She stayed there for the next 15 years, earning her the accolade of being the show's (then) "longest-running" co-host, per "Today."

Couric had experienced a taste of co-hosting after standing in for Norville while she was on maternity leave — and she'd liked it. According to The Baltimore Sun, despite Norville's insistence that she would be returning to the show, the new mom was kicked to the curb in favor of her ambitious successor. Couric said the promotion was "a terrific opportunity ... one I certainly didn't expect would come my way." Meanwhile, Norville saved face by claiming she wanted to take some time off to give her son "the best possible start in life."

Norville didn't bear any animosity towards Couric for replacing her on the "Today" show, though. Instead, she blamed the networks and the media for pitting women against each other. In 2012, she wrote an article for The Hollywood Reporter titled "Why Women Lose the Morning TV Wars." She slammed the media for their perpetual cat-fight narrative — and she praised Couric for "reminding everyone of the sparkle and humor that made her a viewer favorite."

Her 'catty,' bridge-burning memoir

There was no escaping the shady side of Katie Couric after she released her tantalizing tell-all, "Going There." She didn't hold back, dishing the dirt on alleged feuds and spilling the tea on A-listers. Couric revealed her true feelings about ex-colleagues and rivals in the 500-page memoir. She called Deborah Norville "stunning" and "whip-smart," then blamed her "relentless perfection" for a ratings' decline. And she admitted that she thoroughly enjoyed "getting under [Diane Sawyer's] skin" by scoring top interviews, many of which they were often competing for. 

According to the Daily Mail, Couric conceded she should have been kinder to Ashleigh Banfield but decided that helping her would have been "self-sabotage." She shared her conflicted feelings over the Matt Lauer sex scandal, dissed Martha Stewart by joking that it took prison for her to "develop a sense of humor," and claimed Prince Harry stank of booze and cigarettes. She also detailed a creepy 15-minute date with Michael Jackson – and her shade-throwing and tea-spilling didn't stop there.

One critic said the book should have been titled "Burning Bridges by Catty Couric," per the Daily Mail. However, The Guardian called it "Hilarious and very honest," and USA Today placed "Going There" on its list of "5 books not to miss." They included a quote Couric gave them about the memoir: "It represents a moment in time and is a certain period of history from the perspective of someone who was very lucky to have the seat she had."