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Katie Couric’s upcoming memoir has made waves for shocking excerpts that have ruffled feathers in TV news circles.
Now, in her first interview about the new book, Couric gives more detail on some of the headline-making pieces — most notably, her former “Today” show co-anchor, Matt Lauer — saying that her words have been “cherry-picked and twisted” by leaked excerpts.
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Couric no longer speaks to Lauer, she reveals in a new cover story with People magazine, released on Wednesday. She says she was “shocked” by the allegations, calling Lauer’s behavior “callous” and “grossly inappropriate.”
That’s not the Matt I knew,” Couric tells the magazine. “There’s a duality in human beings, and sometimes they don’t let you see both sides.”
Couric’s book says that after learning about Lauer’s behavior, she came to realize that he was a professional partner and friend to her, but a predator to others.
“It took me a very, very long time to kind of come to terms with it,” Couric says. “Also, to appreciate the damage that was done to women who were taken advantage by many powerful men.”
In late 2017, Lauer was fired from the “Today” show for inappropriate sexual behavior, after being with the morning show for over two decades and earning an annual $25 million salary. Variety broke the exclusive story through a two-month investigation that uncovered multiple accusations from numerous women who said they were victims of sexual harassment in the workplace. After Variety‘s report, more women came forward with allegations, including former NBC News employee, Brooke Nevils, who accused Lauer of rape during a business trip at the 2014 Sochi Olympics; Nevils’ complaint resulted in Lauer’s swift firing from the “Today” show.
Lauer has repeatedly denied the rape allegation, saying it is “categorically false” and calling the encounter with Nevils an “extramarital affair.”
Over the past couple of weeks, tabloid outlets have leaked excerpts from Couric’s memoir, “Going There,” which will be released on Oct. 26. One of the excerpts, published by the NY Post, says that Couric texted Lauer after he was fired to tell him that he is a “decent man” whom she felt “heartless to abandon.”
The leaked excerpts have also included scathing words by Couric about Diane Sawyer, Prince Harry, Martha Stewart, Deborah Norville and Ashleigh Banfield — both of whom have spoken out against the book with Norville saying she was “stunned” by Couric’s words and too “hurt” to comment, while Banfield has questioned whether Couric was so competitive that she intentionally hurt her career trajectory as a young female journalist. (Speaking to People, Couric clarifies that while she was “protective of her position,” she did not block Banfield. “I never iced her out. I never criticized her,” Couric says. “It just didn’t bring out my generous side.”)
The reported text exchange that was leaked in the Post between Couric and Lauer left many scratching their heads. But now, Couric provides more context on what readers will find in her book.
Couric says she never knew about Lauer’s inappropriate interactions with women in the workplace, telling People that she knew he was a “player,” but they never shared private details about their personal lives with one another. “I think we have all these euphemisms that we used to use for bad behavior — and player was one of them,” Couric says. “He was a flirt. Certainly I read that he was unhappy in his marriage. But, honestly, I never had that discussion with him.”
Couric adds, “I think it’s hard for people to understand that we didn’t share intimate parts of our lives with each other. I could count on one hand the times that I talked to him as I would a confidant or a really close friend.”
“Our offices were next to each other, and so I think when he engaged in this kind of behavior, he was extraordinarily secretive about it,” Couric continues. “I [had] heard a few pieces of gossip, that he was involved with an anchor, and I remember thinking, ‘Who knows if this is true?’ I think it was considered nobody’s business. At many news organizations in the ’90s and early 2000s, there was a lot of inappropriate fraternization.”
Couric told the magazine that Lauer might make comments about movie stars who visited the “Today” show, “Saying, like, ‘Oof, she’s unbelievable,'” but she never witnessed his behavior towards staffers in the workplace. “He was admiring of beautiful women. But I never felt he was pervy or inappropriate in my presence, ever.”
One time, Couric writes in her book, a producer told her about an email that Lauer had sent to her by mistake in 2004, which contained sexual comments, including spreading butter on her thighs. (Variety has not reviewed a copy of Couric’s memoir yet.) Speaking to People about the email, Couric says she was “shocked” and “disappointed,” but at the time, had assumed that the interaction was consensual and not abusive.
“I think I thought more about the infidelity aspect than the idea that he was taking advantage of someone,” she said about the email. “The idea of something being consensual was interpreted very differently than it is now. If I had to do it again, I would have made sure that young woman was okay.”
Couric’s book will also address sexism in the news industry. In the cover story, she discusses how the media business has shifted immensely throughout the #MeToo movement, telling People, “I think we’ve learned a lot. I think our understanding of what is a consensual relationship has changed dramatically, and now we know if there is a power dynamic, it can’t really be considered consensual.”
Speaking on the topic of redemption, Couric tells the magazine, “It’s really not for me to forgive him. This is Matt’s story, and it’s the story of the people he exploited.”
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