Several days before Ann Curry tearfully told viewers of the TODAY show she would be leaving the morning news show, co-anchor Matt Lauer, told a colleague at the network that his hands "were clean" when he was formally told the respected journalist was being axed from the program, RadarOnline.com is reporting.
The meteoric fall of TODAY in the morning ratings race is documented by New York Times reporter Brian Stelter in his new book, Top Of The Morning: Insider the Cutthroat World Of Morning TV, out Tuesday.
Among the shocking revelations in the book, Stelter exposes how badly Curry was treated up to and following her removal from TODAY by network bosses and colleagues.
Lauer never believed that Curry was the best fit to sit alongside him, after Meredith Vieira left the show when her contract expired. Lauer -- TODAY’s then golden boy -- wanted Curry replaced as early as April 2012, and according to the book, "But Lauer suspected that her (Ann Curry) hasty disappearance would hurt him further. He was afraid of being blamed," a colleague told Selter.
In June 2012, then executive producer of TODAY, Jim Bell, decided it was time for Curry to formally be cut from the show, before the London Olympics.
According to the book, "Word spread around NBC at four p.m. on the twentieth that the story of Curry's imminent departure from TODAY was about to come out. A colleague called Lauer, who was at the gym, to give him a heads up. 'My hands are clean,' Lauer responded."
Curry's last day on the air has gone down in history for the cringe worthy manner the network handled her sudden departure. "Lauer called in, too, and asked how Curry's sign-off would be choreographed. No one really knew the answer. A source remembers that Lauer referred to the anticipated moment as 'taking my cyanide pill.'"
Instead of a celebrated send-off with a highlight reel of Curry's 15 years on TODAY, she was given just five minutes at the close of the show, as opposed to Vieira’s star-studded goodbye that included a dance party at the end of her last day. The network received massive criticism for bungling Curry's exit.
"NBC executives later claimed that a proper send-off was unwarranted because Curry wasn't completely leaving the show, she was simply leaving the co-host chair. She'd still be the "anchor at large." But that excuse was laughable. Meredith Vieria, after all, stuck around NBC as a "special correspondent" and a contributor to TODAY - yet her jubilant farewell took up the better part of two hours. To Curry, the poor treatment was a message from her irresponsible bosses: Get the f*ck out.," Selter writes.
Immediately, there was backlash from viewers on Twitter, blaming Lauer for Curry's demotion. "Certainly the messages to @MLauer on Thursday were venomous, blaming him for making her cry...'I'm never looking at Twitter again,' Lauer told a colleague.
Top of The Morning: Inside The Cutthroat World of Morning TV goes on sale Tuesday and retails for $18.00 on Amazon.