Matt Lauer Criticizes NBC Over Ann Curry's 'Today' Exit

Matt Lauer Ann Curry - P 2013
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Matt Lauer Ann Curry - P 2013

"I don’t think the show and the network handled the transition well," Lauer says in a new interview. "You don’t have to be Einstein to know that."

A new look at the Today show's disastrous Ann Curry debacle shines a more favorable light on the morning program's iconic anchor, Matt Lauer.

Accused by some of organizing the ouster of Curry, the show's longtime newsreader who was booted from her co-anchor job after just a year, Lauer says that the Peacock's brass were at fault for the bungled demotion.

"I don’t think the show and the network handled the transition well," Lauer tells the Daily Beast. "You don’t have to be Einstein to know that. … It clearly did not help us. We were seen as a family, and we didn’t handle a family matter well."

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The revealing story depicts Lauer as a desperate voice of reason during the public saga. Insiders say he struggled to find chemistry with Curry, which was never a problem with previous co-hosts Katie Couric and Meredith Vieira, but he both urged the network to slow the falling ax and counseled Curry to get an agent ahead of the impending mess. Ultimately, Savannah Guthrie would be promoted to co-host.

"He was quietly and publicly a supporter of Ann’s throughout the entire process," says Steve Capus, the former NBC News president, defending his longtime colleague. "It is unfair that Matt has shouldered an undue amount of blame for a decision he disagreed with."

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Capus was behind getting Curry to accept a new role as correspondent-at-large, in which she would travel the world doing more hard-news stories. Curry has said that co-hosting Today was her dream job, but as Capus told The Hollywood Reporter last summer, he could tell it wasn't the right fit for her skill set.

"I think it was not where her real passion was," he said. "In her heart of hearts, I think she would admit that. I think her real passion is built around reporting on international stories. It’s tough to convey a sincere interest in something if you don’t possess it. We live in a HD world. Dan Rather used to say the camera never blinks. Well, this is an HD world now, and the camera picks up everything. And you could tell with her, you can tell with any anchor, whether they’re into it or not. And I think we’ve now come up with a role that will play to her strengths."

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Lauer admits to asking Couric to return to the show before Curry officially became co-host in 2011, and he considered joining her in a daytime syndicated talk show after a short period of reteaming on Today. NBC did not want to back Couric's daytime talker, though, and it went to ABC affiliates. Lauer re-signed with NBC.

"It really broke my heart this morning to see Ann, because I know she’s suffering and is feeling a lot of pain with this transition, and I know that it’s really hard for everyone on the show," Couric said in June of Curry's unceremonious exit. "I still have a lot of great friends that I made over those 15 years on the Today show, and this kind of tumult is really hard for everyone."