Inside Katie Couric's Secretly Tense Relationship With Bryant Gumbel

Since the heyday of the popular morning news broadcast the "Today Show," when Katie Couric, Matt Lauer, Bryant Gumbel, and Ann Curry starred on the program's roster, a startling number of dark behind-the-scenes secrets have been exposed. While Lauer's now-infamous lock button might be the first thing that springs to mind, there are plenty of other deep-seated tensions behind the 100-watt smiles of these broadcast journalists, many of which were uncovered in the years following the advent of #MeToo.

Some of these stories involve Lauer, whom Curry alleges was responsible for her 2012 ousting from her co-anchor position after Couric took leave of the program — one which, per Curry, came after she notified executives of Lauer's alleged sexual misconduct (via ETOnline). But while Lauer might currently be the most controversial part of the group, he isn't the only "Today" host to have had fricative relationships with his co-stars. For further proof, look no further than former sportscaster Bryant Gumbel and perennial "Today Show" queen Katie Couric.  

Gumbel, perhaps known best to Millennials and Gen Z as the "what is Internet?" meme, made his name from 1982 to 1997 as one of the longest-serving "Today Show" co-anchors. Before Lauer took his NBC post alongside Couric, it was Gumbel who reparteed with Couric in front of millions of viewers. And understandably, their partnership wasn't always smooth sailing.

Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric had their share of tense moments

Although Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel maintained their on-air professional camaraderie, it doesn't mean there weren't periods filled with frisson. Varying accounts have stated Couric and Gumbel weren't personally close. According to USA Today, Couric shared one such instance in a 2019 issue of her subscription newsletter, Wake-Up Call. In it, Couric recounted an "uncomfortable exchange" with Gumbel on her last day of work before taking maternity leave for the birth of her eldest daughter in 1991. According to the former "Today" anchor, the awkward incident revolved around Gumbel's seemingly limited knowledge about not only maternity leave as a policy, but his lack of understanding over basics involving working women. 

As Couric recalled — and which she also evidenced in an accompanying "Today Show" clip — it all started after she announced on live TV that she would take off nine weeks for maternity leave. "I'm going to relax for three weeks, as much as you can relax when you're carrying around 30 extra pounds," Couric said to Gumbel at the time jokingly, before switching to a more serious note. "Then hopefully I'll have the baby and everything. It's a major shock to your body, I hope you realize, when you have a baby. And it takes a while to get back to normal and get on a schedule." But Gumbel's response to Couric's scientifically accurate statement was anything but sympathetic.

Despite it all, Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel continue to remain friendly

As Katie Couric recalled in her March 2019 newsletter (via USA Today), Bryant Gumbel's reaction to her maternity leave announcement, along with her accompanying commentary on the effects of childbirth on the body, were seemingly met with dismissal. "Your ancestors didn't worry about that shock to your body," Gumbel responded. "They came right back and worked." Couric, however, would not be steamrolled or mansplained to by her colleague. "And they died when they were, like, 32 years old," she retorted — after which Gumbel once again volleyed, asking Couric what she could possibly be "worried about," considering she was then 34. Both co-hosts eventually dropped the subject. 

Later speaking with USA Today Couric told the paper that she would be "interested to hear [Gumbel's] reaction to the clip" nearly 30 years after their awkward encounter aired. Prefacing subsequent statements by clarifying she and Gumbel generally "had a great working relationship," she proceeded to say that she thought "some of [his attitude] was sort of in jest," in the vein of "giving me a hard time." Regardless, Couric concluded, "in context of all the conversations these days [following #MeToo] it was interesting to watch."